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BY HOUSTON STEWART CHAMBERLAIN 
FOUNDATIONS OF THE NINETEENTH CEN- 
TURY. Translated from the German by JOHN LEES. 
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I M MANUEL. KANT 

A STUDY AND A COMPARISON 
WITH GOETHE, LEONARDO DA VINCI, 
BRUNO, PLATO AND DESCARTES BY 
HOUSTON STEWART CHAMBERLAIN 
AUTHORISED TR7\NSLATION 
FROM THE GERMAN BY 
LOR!) UKDiiSDALK, (,A K,C' H 

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY THE 
TRANSLATOR, IN TWO VOLUMES 
WITH EIGHT PORTRAITS. VOLUME I 



LONDON i JOUK tAftg THE M&JUIY HEAP 
NfW JtOtlU JOHN LA1 COMPANY 

MCMXtV 




IMMANUEL KANT 

A STUDY AND A COMPARISON 
WITH GOETHE, LEONARDO DA VINCI, 
BRUNO, PLATO AND DESCARTES BY 
HOUSTON STEWART CHAMBERLAIN 
AUTHORISED TRANSLATION 
FROM THE GERMAN BY 
LORI) RKDESDALE, G.C.V.O., K.C.B. 
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY THE 
TRANSLATOR, IN TWO VOLUMES 
WITH EIGHT PORTRAITS. VOLUME I 



LONDON: JOHN LANK THIiBODLEY HEAD 
NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY 
TORONTO : BELL & CO^KBURN MCMXIV 



TRANSLATOR'S INTRODUCTION 

IF there be one defect more peculiarly English than 
another it is the tendency to sneer at everything 
foreign, at everything that is not familiar, every- 
thing outside the daily experience of our narrow 
life. Talking the other day with a man of acknowledged 
ability and great public worth, 1 happened to mention 
the name of Kant. " Of one thing I can assure you/ 1 
said my friend, ** I am too old to have anything to do 
with German philosophy/ 1 Coming from such a man 
these words set me wondering. Does there, after all, 
exist such a thing, as German philosophy ? Surely 
philosophy is the common possession of all mankind, not 
the monopoly of any one race or language* There can be 
few men in the world, whatever their nationality may be, 
who do not sometimes "think about thought/ 1 The famous 
misunderstood ** Cogito ergo sum *" of Descartes, con- 
cerning which Chamberlain has much to say, must often 
come into the least thoughtful minds. Why am I ? 
What am 1 ? What are the relations between me and 
the world ? are questions which are no more than what 
is contained in the old Greek precept yv&dt awvrov* 

The investigation of the laws of human thought, its 
objects^ methods, and results, belong to all humanity, 
otherwise It is nothing. And In the case of Kant, that 
great Lord of Thought, how far can he be called German? 
Have we Britons, too, not some small hereditary share 
in the legacy which he lias left to the world ? True he 
was the son of a humble saddler of K5nigsbcrg Konigs* 

in! 



viii TRANSLATOR'S INTRODUCTION 

berg, where he was born and educated, and which he 
never left during all the long eighty years of his life, not 
even for a butterfly's summer holiday. But that saddler 
was a Scot by origin. How he and his had found their 
way to that far away northern town at a time when travel 
was so difficult, I know not, but it is a feather in the cap 
of our country, that perhaps the most wonderful brain that 
ever thought, the brain whose power was, as Goethe said, 
so great that even those who had never read Kant were 
nevertheless unwittingly influenced by his writings, came 
of our blood. We may be proud that we too have our 
part, remote though it be, in his glory. 

It is well that the latest, and by no means the least, 
tribute to this gigantic intellect should have been paid 
by an Englishman, albeit ho has chosen the German 
language as the vehicle for his thought, Mr. Chamber- 
lain's countrymen must always regret the circumstances 
that have caused him to adopt a foreign country and a 
foreign tongue. In my introduction to another master- 
piece of his, " The Foundations of the Nineteenth Cen- 
tury/' I have given the causes of that alienation -an 
alienation not altogether of his own choosing* I need not 
repeat the story here* 

I make no apology for my attempt to reproduce his 
work upon Kant in an English dress for the benefit of 
those of Mr. Chamberlain's countrymen to whom the 
German language is a hindrance. The task which I have 
set myself has been one of great difficulty* It is com- 
paratively easy to translate a work of fiction, or even a 
political work, but in attempting to render into another 
language a book in which every sentence has been thought 
out and weighed with, I might almost say, mathematical 
accuracy, the translator is face to face with the danger 
that a mere shadow of a word may introduce an important 
element of confusion* Style must, of necessity, often be 
sacrificed to the most literal, unchallengeable truth. 



TRANSLATOR'S INTRODUCTION ix 



For the exactness of the translation I can offer 
security of Mr. Chamberlain himself. He has taken the 
pains to read it through from Alpha to Omega. He has 
been so kind as to make many suggestions, and not a few 
emendations, I am therefore in a position to lay before 
the public a version of his work which has satisfied his 
critical judgment. His own introduction amply explains 
what has been his aim, and what are the means by which 
he has attempted to reach it. It was a happy inspiration 
which led him to test what he calls Kant's " style of 
thought/ 1 by comparing it critically with that of the five 
great Thinkers whose methods he analyses with all the 
learning and power of argument for which he is famous. 
The high praise with which this endeavour has been 
received by the literary world of Germany will, I hope, 
find an echo among the learned of his own country, 
Should it fail to do so it will be my fault and not his. 
One thing must be remembered. Mr. Chamberlain warns 
us over and over again that here is no exhaustive treatise 
upon Kant's philosophy. It is an introduction to the 
man himself. He, as it were, leads us to Kant, enables 
us to judge of his personality, to see how and why he has 
become such a power in the world of thought. He wishes 
to make us know Kant, and, knowing him, to love him 
as he loves him* No great Teacher ever had a more 
devoted disciple than Chamberlain is to Kant : even in 
the long years of illness under which he suffered, he tells 
us that he found in Kant a sympathy and a consolation, 

Immanuel Kant as he shows him to us is a wonderful 
and an engaging personality perhaps the sun in heaven 
never shone upon a stranger being than the Scottish- 
German Konigsberg professor. 

If under Chamberlain's guidance you penetrate into 

the great man's sanctum, you will find a small wizen man, 

hardly above a dwarf in stature, with sharp inquisitive 

features, and an eye that penetrates your very soul, and 

i. A a 



x TRANSLATOR'S INTRODUCTION 

seems to flood the whole room with light. His portrait by 
Dobler shows him dressed with scrupulous care. Be- 
ruffled and be-frilled, his appearance is that of an old 
French Marquis of the CEil-de-Boeuf. Fine clothes are 
his one sacrifice to the Arts ; he conceives it to be his 
duty to his visitors and to himself to appear to the best 
advantage. One feels inclined to wish that some of the 
modern men of learning would take a leaf out of his book, 
slovenliness and economy of soap being in his esteem 
no emblems of wisdom. He, on the contrary, is as well 
groomed as any Beau Brummell, and, groat philosopher 
as he is, no petit maiire was ever more delicately turned 
out. Such was the appearance of the man. 

And his conversation 1 Ho has read every book of 
travel that he can lay his hand upon. His knowledge of 
the cities of Europe, especially of Italy, is so accurate 
that you would imagine that he had spent his life in 
travelling. An Englishman arrives in Konigsborg and 
the conversation happens to turn upon Westminster 
Bridge. The Briton is at fault, but Kunt nets him right 
with as great accuracy as if he had been the surveyor 
who took out the quantities for the builder* His delight 
is in works on anthropology, architecture, natural science, 
history. Don't presume to talk to him of philosophy 1 
he will have none of it- nor docs he seem even to have 
read the works of contemporary thinkers, save in the case 
of Fichte, where he was eager to show that the man had 
had the audacity to pretend that he ba&xi his philosophy 
upon him. 

Little short of miraculous were Kant's grip and per- 
sistence. He was a mere boy when he chose " the lonely 
furrow '* which he was to plough. During the tnghty 
long years of his life he kept to the course which he had 
laid for himself, Never for an instant did lie swerve to 
the right or to the left, and it was not until he was nmty 
years of age that he conceived himself to be sufficiently 



TRANSLATOR'S INTRODUCTION xi 

equipped to face the public with his masterpiece. It must 
be allowed that this showed phenomenal determination. 

As to his moral courage there can be no two opinions. 
He was the deadly foe of all that is false, of all supersti- 
tion, of all dogma, of all slavery. He preached the 
freedom of man, the " freedom of freedom/ 1 Religion 
he looked upon as the duty which man owes to himself, 
as " the recognition of all our duties as Divine Com* 
mands " ; God is a moral necessity, something beyond 
comprehension : yet " that there is a God in nature " 
cannot be disputed* And this is the man whom church- 
men have been apt to hold up to execration as irreligious ! 

His physical courage was no less than his moral courage. 
Fear was unknown to him. Upon one occasion a burglar 
broke in upon him. He had mistaken his man. In that 
puny body there was, to borrow an image from Eothen, 
" the pluck of ten battalions/' Kant rushed upon the 
thief with the concentrated rage of a wounded tiger : 
the intruder was so taken aback by the sudden fury of 
the attack that he decamped, leaving the small philos- 
opher master of the field. 

What did the burglar expect to find in that simple 
home ? It was bare of all ornament, for art did not 
appeal to Kant. Save only for the portrait of Rousseau 
his walls were callow ; he looked upon pictures as mere 
witnesses of the vanity of those who hung them. His 
only gems were his thoughts, his wealth the rich mine of 
wisdom and reason, and it is to that treasure-house that 
Chamberlain lovingly and eloquently invites us here. 

The translation of the notes is the work of Mr. Rudolf 
Blind. To him is due that important part of the book, 

REDESDALE, 

April 8, 1914. 



ABBREVIATIONS IN REFERENCE 
TO KANT'S WORKS 

H AUgcmcine Naturgcschichte und Theorie des Himmei's. 
General Natural History and Theory of Heaven. 

Tr. Traiime eines Geistersehers. Dreams of a Ghost-seen 

D I)c mundi sensibilis et intelligibilis forma atque prin- 
cipiis. Of the form and principles of the world of 
the senses and the understanding, 

R,V. Kritik der Reinen Vcrnunft, Critique of Pure Reason, 

P, Prolegomena, etc. 

Or, Grundlegung der Mctaphysik der Sitten. Foundation of 
the Metaphysics of Morals, 

MN, Metaphysische Griinde der Natumssenschaft Meta- 
physical foundations of Natural Science. 

PV, Kritik der Praktischen Vernunft, Critique of Practical 
Reason* 

Ur, Kritik der Urtheilskraft. Critique of the power of 
Judgment 

Rd Die Religion innerhalb der Grcn&en der blossen Ver- 
nunft, Religion within the boundaries of mere 
Reason, 

Tu, Metaptynische Anfengsgriinde der Tugendlehre, Meta* 
physical Elementary foundations of the Doctrine of 
Virtue. 

A* Anthropologic, 

POSTHUMOUS 

ft tJbe die Fortchritte der Mctaphysik, On the progress 
of Metaphysics, 

Br> Briefe, Letters, 

Rcf, Reflcxionen Kant's zur Kritischen Philosophic, Reflec- 
tions of Kant on Critical Philosophy, 
xiii 



xiv ABBREVIATIONS 

N. Lose Blatter aus Kant's Nachlass. Loose leaves from 
Kant's remains. 

tig. Vom iibergang von den Metaphysischen Anfangsgriinden 
der Naturwissenschaft zur Physik, Of the passage of 
the Metaphysical beginnings of Natural Sciences to 
Physics. (The years i #82-3-4 of the " Altprcussischc 
Monatsschrift " in which these unfinished last writings 
of Kant appeared as fragments, are designated as I, 
II, III.) 

ABBREVIATIONS IN REFERENCE TO 
GOETHE'S WRITINGS 

W.A, Weimar Edition. 

Br. Briefe. (Letters). 

G. Gesprache. (Conversations). 

D.W. Dichtung und Wahrheit (Fiction and Truth,) 



CONTENTS 



TRANSLATOR'S INTRODUCTION . . , vii 

ABBREVIATIONS IN REFERENCE TO KANT'S WORKS , , xiii 

POSTHUMOUS . , . . xiu 

ABBREVIATIONS IN REFERENCE TO GOKTHK'S WRITINGS , XIV 

INTRODUCTORY . . . 3 

GOETHE, IDEA AND EXPKRIBNCK. WITH AN EXCURSUS 

ON THE DOCTRINE OF METAMORPHOSIS 13 

LEONARDO* CONCEPTION AND pERCttrnoN, WITH AW 
EXCURSUS UPON PHYSICAL OPTICS AND THE DQCTRINK 

OK COLOUR . . . . 101 

DESCARTES. UNDERSTANDING AND SENSIMUTY* WITH AN 

EXCURSUS UPON ANALYTICAL GEOMETRY . . 197 

BRUNO - . . . * an 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

HOUSTON STEWART CHAMBERLAIN , . 

From an unfinished clay model for a bust by Joseph Hinterscher. 

GOETHE AS A YOUNG MAN , . . Face p. 13 

From an engraving after Gwrg Oswald May (1779). 

*GQBTHE IN 1819 65 

From the painting by George Dawa 

LEONARDO DA VINCI 101 

Paintdd by himself; drawn and engraved by Charles Townley. 

DESCARTES. , . . , 197 

From the painting by Mlftnard, from the Cattle Howard Collection, 
now in the National Gallery. 

BRUNO . . . . . 311 

From art old engraving, 

* All trace of this picture has been lost since 1835* when it was engraved 
for Knight's Portrait Gallery* It was then in the possession of Henry Dawe, 
the younger brother of the painter. Its whereabouts since then was not 
known to Dr. Hermann Rollett, author of " Die Goethe Bildnisse," Vienna, 



A letter appeared in Tk* Times of May ao, 1914, from the publisher asking 
for help to discover the original, and on the 2ist the following letter appeared 
from Mr, William Roberts, the well-known art expert : 



n /fc Mfo of TXi 

Sir, I think the following paragraph! which appeared in Gil Bfa (Paris) 
on May 8, 1913, and which I find amcmg my Goethe cuttings, will help 
Mr. John Lane towards tracing the portrait by George Dawe of Goethe, 
about which he inquired in Tfa Tints of yesterday : 

14 Un portrait de Goethe dont on cherchait vainement la trace depuis 
quatre-vingtji tn^ a itc d^couvert r^cemment i Saint Pitersbourg, et vient 
d^Ut incorpori au Mu*& Goethe do Weimar, auqael un m^cdne de 
Hambourg I'a ofiert. Execute par George Dawe, artiste d^origine anglaise et 
pdntre de la cour de Ruwle, ce portrait tvait toujours <ti coniidirc par les 
Goethicns de marque comme le plus resoemblant parmi ceux qui nous out 
transmit les traltt da maltre, II a dViUeuri M popular!^ par one gravure de 

xvii 



IM MANUEL KANT 



INTRODUCTORY 



. B 



INTRODUCTORY 



^ ^HE philosophy of Immanuel Kant arises out 
I of the keenest dissection of the human in- 
tellect, and of its relation to surrounding 
JL nature : is it possible to place a clear con- 
ception of it before a lay public not previously prepared 
for its reception ? Can a critical theory of recognition 
be set out in such a way as to be generally intelligible ? 
I hardly think so, And yet the wish not to leave a man 
of Kant's importance to be the monopoly of a caste of the 
learned, but to make him a most precious possession of 
all cultured people, is so well justified, that it is begin- 
ning to spring up in many directions : already a number 
of good men and true have, each according to his own 
manner, kept this aim before them and done much 
valuable work. Kant had said that he was born too soon, 
and that a century must pass before his morning should 
arise* That day is now dawning- It is no mere coinci- 
dence that the first complete and accurate edition of the 
various writings and letters of Kant should have begun 
to appear in the year 1900 ; the new century needs the 
protection of this strong intellect, that was able to say 
of its own philosophy that it wrought a revolution in the 
method of thought analogous to that of Copernicus in 
physics. To-day there ai"e some few who know, aad 
many who suspect, that this philosophy is destined to 
form a main pillar of the culture of the future. Kant's 
method of thinking is a shield against the two opposite 
dangers the dogmatism of priestcraft and the super* 

3 



4 INTRODUCTORY 

station of science ; at the same time it braces xis for the 
self-sacrificing fulfilment of the duties of life. 

Where a need is great and universally felt, there many 
have the right to lend a hand. Schiller's verses are, as 
is well known, applicable to " Kant and his commen- 
tators " 

How many beggars one rich man can feed ! 
When kings start building, carters find their work, 

I too am a beggar. A beggar who from his youth up has 
sat at the rich table of the King of Thinkers, Till now it 
was my wont to sit at this table, untroubled by care : I 
was rather beggar than carter ; I fed my intellect, but 
did not bring myself into play. Never would the thought 
have entered my brain that what was to me an intimate 
event in my life might some day be turned to account 
for the benefit of others. In order that the reader may 
know exactly what has been my fixed god in the follow- 
ing lectures, but may at the same time see what 1 do not 
aim at, I will first of all explain what have been my 
relations to Kant for so I may call them and then, in 
a few words, set out the special motive for their publica- 
tion. 

Kant's contemporaries are fond of dwelling upon his 
eye. One of them writes : " Kant's eye, out of which 
the deep look of his intellect shone forth veiled by a slight 
cloud, was, as it were, formed of the heavenly ether ; it 
is impossible to describe its bewitching glance/' Another 
a mere dry physician says : ** I cannot give myself 
free scope upon the subject of the intellectual significance 
of his beautiful, large blue eye. Revealing a pure inmost 
clearness, it was at the same time an expression of good- 
ness of heart and kindliness, and specially did it beam 
upwaxds when Kant at table, bowed down with think- 
ing, would after a moment suddenly lift his head and 
address someone* It was as if a peaceful light, streaming 



INTRODUCTORY 5 

from him, spread itself over his words and illuminated 
all around it." That eye, formed out of the heavenly 
ether, that spread light ' over his words, his often 
obscure words, shone upon me the first time that I 
turned over the leaves of a book of Kant's. It may well 
be that I did not always understand his language : his 
eye I always understood ; I honoured the philosopher, 
but the man stood still nearer to me ; that Sage in whose 
eye a whole philosophy is reflected, a philosophy to 
which it is impossible to give exhaustive expression in any 
scheme even were that scheme one of Kant's own de- 
vising, for the simple reason that it is far too unwonted, 
far too comprehensive and unfathomable, far too closely 
adapted to, and in harmony with, those riddles of life which 
can never be expressed in words. And so, as the years 
ran on, I became more and more intimate with Kant, 
His manner of thinking grew into me, or I into it. And 
here there was one distinguishing characteristic feature 
in Kant's method of thinking which exercised a special 
stimulus upon my mind, and lightened the task of 
accepting his thoughts. For Kant's books, however dry 
and stiff they may appear at first sight, are living creations. 
In him there is no flat faultless exposition of a neatly 
chiselled system which on a given day is laid before the 
world as a finished whole, but the passionate work of a 
genius whose life's task is the inmost organisation of his 
philosophy, a life's task with which he is busied night 
and day from early youth to advanced old age, fully 
conscious of its importance to the human race. He him- 
self warns us in the most difficult of his works,, the 
Critique of Pwe Reason, to look upon it as " a document 
which runs on in freedom of speech/' that is to say not 
to be too fussy about words, not to deal in learned hair- 
splittings, When in spite of this warning some new 
Editor, relying upon an extensive historical and critical 
collection of materials, undertakes to prove that the 



6 INTRODUCTORY 

different parts of this work were written at different 
times, that Kant inserted new matter without having 
previously re-read that which went before and followed 
after that he therefore repeated some things over and 
over again, leaving other things unsaid that he was 
often faithless to his own definitions, or used different 
descriptions for the same circle of thoughts, all these 
suspicions, many of which are certainly groundless, only 
go to show us that in this work we have before us some- 
thing which was the result of living thought, growing 
day by day, not something artificial and hide-bound, 
and that it is based not upon words and definitions, but 
upon perceptions and convictions, and indeed upon per- 
ceptions and convictions which have all the more influence 
upon us in that they never freeze into numbness, but arc 
viewed and described in one way to-day, in another to- 
morrow. " All that I wish is to be understood/' Kant 
said in reply to the first of the long list of his profit 
sional word-critics. It was thus that, in spite of his laby- 
rinthine sentences, Kant became dear to me as a writor* 
He never occupies himself with learning, bitt with life : 
the metaphysics of the schools are to him a wilderness. 
It is on the contrary the idea of personality which makes 
us conscious of " the august character of our nature " ; 
it is upon this, upon the liberation of man, upon the 
development of all the exalted qualities which He hidden 
in his being, that Kant's whole method of thought i* 
directed. It was at his instigation that I arrived at not 
allowing myself to be deterred by those pedants ** who 
tear single points out of their context/' and pick out 
"imaginary contradictions ; but as "mastering the 
idea as a whole/' That is the only thing that signifies, 
the idea as a whole. It is this idea which at the outset 
drew my intellect to Kant* And what is this " idea as & 
whde/' if it be not the personality itself which shone 
forth from that " bewitcbdag eye/* and is embodied here 



INTRODUCTORY 7 

in a philosophy ? Goethe tells us that to busy himself 
with Kant acts upon him " like stepping into a brightly 
lighted room/' With me that feeling has always been so 
vivid, that during long years of suffering, when all other 
reading was impossible, I could refresh myself with 
Kant, The mere contact with that intellect, purifies, 
braces, and heals. Every man who approaches him in the 
right spirit will feel the same. 

Such, briefly told, are my personal experiences of Kant. 
But when a few years ago I was asked by friends, who 
had tried much and greatly failed, for advice as to how 
they should begin to make themselves familiar with the 
so much dreaded Kant, I was at the first blush puzzled 
as to what I should answer. There are, it is true, excellent 
books as introductions to Kant's critical world of thought, 
but they are to my thinking all marred by the same 
fault : they are technical, and on that account attack 
the subject from an abstract point of view. Now I am 
of opinion that Kant must be the common property of 
all cultured persons, and to that end we must make his 
personality, and not the scheme of his thoughts, and 
least of all a single work such as the Pure Reason* the 
central point of the exposition. The living force of all 
that which takes effect under the name of Kant, is the 
Man who lived at K6nigsberg from 1724 ^o 1804* And so 
I ended by recommending my friends to begin with the 
descriptions of his life, the old biographies by his con- 
temporaries. To read Jachmann, Borowski, and 
Vasianski is to honour Kant and to love Kant : whoever 
has done that is on the right way towards understanding 
him, and that with an incalculable advantage which 
appears from the following consideration. Few indeed 
vrtll be in a position to understand Kant in the sense 
that they can see over the vast horteon which he over* 
looked, or to follow him. down into those depths which it 
was Ms peculiar, rare gift to fathom ; if we approach 



8 INTRODUCTORY 

him from one single side we shall only see one portion of 
this philosophy, and that means a fraction, something 
torn out, essentially imperfect ; whereas on the contrary 
if we take our start from the centre of the living person- 
ality, we shall be in a position to draw a circle round this 
centre, wider or narrower in proportion to our gifts, and 
this circle, no matter how great may be its diameter, will 
be an organic whole. Only that which is harmony and 
all-round accomplishment can be called culture. It is 
not enough to make Kant accessible ; it must be done in 
such a fashion as will make him a real motive power in 
culture. It was this consideration that led me to the 
question whether it might not be possible and useful to 
extend the narrowly bounded circle drawn by those 
lovingly descriptive biographies* No systematic and 
collective setting out of his life's work, such as the pro- 
fessional schoolmen have attempted with more or less 
good fortune, still less a searching analysis and display 
of single writings and series of thoughts ; but a survey of 
Kant's personality from the purely human standpoint. 
What the day brings quickly fades from our sight, over- 
whelmed by the unceasingly rising piles of the desert 
Sand of Time : in spite of that the fleeting experience 
leaves behind it in faithful memories the impression of 
something which is everlasting, because it can never 
come back : that is the memory of the indivisible, of the 
incomparable, of the man, 

Every max* is in his place immortal. 

However, since all repetition is a crime, and since the 
biographies have told us all that is necessary about 
Kant's course of life, his disposition, and his habits, it waa 
dear that this attempt at an interpretation must be con* 
fined to his intellectual personality. Not the crooked, 
zigzag line of a human destiny, but the immovable 
inmost soul of the given being, not the thoughts of the 



INTRODUCTORY 9 

thinker, but the way in which he arrived at thinking 
those thoughts : that was what it must be my aim to 
grasp. A system of philosophy is from the outset fixed 
by the construction of the personality- Education and 
the influences of life, among which the mother-tongue 
asserts itself as the most active and despotic factor in 
thought, only occupy the second place in our attention 
in so far as they are responsible for giving form. But in 
what way are we to set about portraying a personality ? 
In my first lecture I have established the conviction that 
comparison alone can lead us to our goal. If I compare 
great thinkers, which always means great Seers, with 
one another, a Kant, a Goethe, a Plato, a Descartes, 
enquiring less as to what they saw than as to how 
they saw it, I soon discover how exactly the organic 
quality of their mental machinery and of their intellectual 
aptitude conditions their philosophy : at the same time 
the comparison teaches me to form a sharp and living 
estimate of the peculiarities of each. The work of com- 
parison must always proceed from the eye. We can only 
judge men when we see them at work ; yet, by following 
this road we soon unconsciously reach the domain of 
metaphysics, even down to the discussion of fundamental 
definitions and the like* And so we suddenly discover 
that wo have been not insignificantly helped in our task, 
and that too in a more wholesome fashion than through 
attempts at courting popularity* We cannot drag a man 
like Kant down to our level The rather should we follow 
the roots of his idiosyncrasy in various directions, seeking 
for points of contact with phenomena that are more 
familiar to us, and in this way by degrees strive to work 
our way up to him. 

Such are the impulses and the considerations to which 
the present work owes its inception and its peculiar 
form. In the first instance I dealt only with lectures 
hastily thrown off, intended only for a most limited 



io INTRODUCTORY. 

circle : even in the more closely worked up state, this 
characteristic of unfettered living conversational talk, 
has been preserved in spite of its far more extended 
sphere. The lectures were destined for friends, and even 
now that they have to face a wider circulation, they are 
addressed only to sympathetic intellects. It is a layman 
who is speaking to laymen. His object is far less that of 
teaching than that of pointing the road to learning. His 
ambition is to stimulate, to arouse, to inspire enthusiasm ; 
he desires to reveal lines of thought, to shed light and 
lucidity, to give men confidence in their own power. So 
soon as the reader shall have reached the field of attraction 
of the great master he will no longer need this friendly 
hand. Until he reaches it, while he is yet on the road, 
let him not be too proud to accept its help. 



GOETHE 
IDEA AND EXPERIENCE 

WITH AN EXCURSUS ON THE DOCTRINE 
OF METAMORPHOSIS 



Where object and subject touch 
one another there is life. 

Goethe. 



GOETHE 

THE manner in which a man looks upon the 
problems of life and of the world, in other 
words his philosophy, is born with him ; it 
is the necessary result of his way of " seeing." 
We may admit that the limits of the peculiar form in 
which he gradually works out this inborn quality of his 
into a more and more perfected embodiment, and first 
becomes conscious of its possession, arise like a network 
of diagonal lines out of his own original self, under the 
influence of the workings of his time and his surround- 
ings ; still, at the root of all is the personality* 

The development of the soul is like that of the body: 
encouragements and hindrances crop up, asserting their 
power at evexy step ; ;nor can we afford to lose sight of the 
following considerations* If in the life's work of a great 
thinker we are content to compare the doctrines and 
the systematic construction in his labours at different 
stages of his existence, or to collect utterances and 
opinions upon any special question drawn from every 
nook and comer of the overflowing intellectual treasure- 
house of genius, we shall easily bring to light a whole 
chaos of contradictions* There is no great cleverness in 
that* It is the way in which to create the impression 
of uncertainty and unreality ; the consistency of the 
thinker's philosophy is apparently destroyed. If, how- 
ever, we look more closely, we shall face these uncertain 
wavering utterances of the thinking brain with special 
attention, inasmuch as it is just in these inconsistencies 



i 4 GOETHE 

that the fight of the one man defending his own against 
the surrounding world of prejudice is revealed, and in 
no other way can the special and distinguishing features 
of the individual be laid bare. This is conspicuously seen 
in Kant, for in his case it is not, as in that of Schopen- 
hauer, for instance, the uniformity of a systematic 
method of thinking which gives consistency to his work 
in the field of philosophy, but the practical combination 
in one living personality of ve^y different, indeed almost 
contradictory, intellectual faculties. I think, therefore, 
that you will penetrate into Kant's work with greater 
ease and surety, if in the first place you become familiar 
with the rich world of his personality. 

Men who wish to become acquainted with the philos- 
ophy of Immanucl Kant are apt to plunge with all the 
boldness of insanity into that most difficult of all the 
works of the world's literature, the Critique of Pure 
Rea$on; most of them soon lose courage, and end by 
contenting themselves with reading the chapter on Kant 
in some history of philosophy. I would urge you to 
follow me on a different road I would urge you, before 
venturing upon the study of any of Kant's various 
writings, and before attempting to assign to this rare 
man any place in history, to learn to appreciate those 
essential features of his intellectual existence which 
differentiate him from all other thinkers, and so to 
become familiar with his life's work* I am not looking so 
much to the outward aspects of his personality as to his 
intellectual faculties, considering them, so far as may be, 
apart from the accidental conditions of time and space- 
History is apt to blind us to that which is eternal. The 
details of Kant's life, his fate here upon earth, are acces- 
sible to you from all manner of books* For a know- 
ledge of his character I would refer you to the three 
little sketches by his contemporaries, Borowski, Jach- 
roann, and Voswmski. 1 His philosophical teaching is 



GOETHE 15 

dealt with in thousands of books and essays in all the 
languages of Europe. 2 Naturally we too must draw 
upon these various sources ; but we shall not dwell too 
much upon them, for our object lies in another direction. 
It must be our aim to ascertain what was the original 
nature of Kant's intellect ; how he looked out upon the 
world ; how he worked up in his soul the impressions 
which he received ; in what manner he was bound to 
think. We wish to know what intellectual materials he 
assimilated, and what he rejected ; what were the 
intellectual achievements for which he was specially 
qualified, for what on the other hand he had little aptitude 
or none. We wish to investigate the motive powers which 
gradually impelled him to devote himself to the most 
abstract thinking, and which gave him the perseverance 
necessary for his herculean labours. Above all, we shall 
endeavour, silently and attentively, to keep watch while 
ho thinks, so that by practical appreciation we may be- 
come acquainted, if not with the artistic whole of his 
finished thought-stnicture, at any rate with the special 
features of the world in which he lived and worked accord- 
ing to the dictates of his natures. In short, we desire to 
investigate the individuality of the Thinker, the qualities 
of his intellectual personality. That will without doubt 
result in our arriving at the distinguishing peculiarity 
of his work, at any rate in its larger and more general 
features, and that will lay the foundation for further 
study hereaf ten 

How can such a task be accomplished ? To my mind 
there is but one way, that of comparison. " Nous m 
pouvons acquerir de connaissances que p<& la voie de la 
comp&raiwn" says Buff on, the great naturalist.* For a 
theoretical description presupposes a whole series of 
definitions, and in the face of life all definitions shrivel 
up into figures of speech. Except in the case of mathe- 
paatics W logic, in which definitions deal with the formal 



16 GOETHE 

aspect of universally accepted schemes of perception 
and comprehension, all attempts at defining rest upon 
the fundamental disregard of the single individual ; for 
example, in Zoology or Botany we define a species, whilst 
we are only calling attention to that which is common 
to the different individuals, whereas the peculiarity of 
the single individual, even of its outer form, is made up 
of a hundred features, which defy all verbal description- 
There is no such thing as a " science 1 ' of the individual. 
And this holds good if instead of the outward and visible 
form we take into consideration the invisible inner nature. 
In such cases, on the contrary, generalities mean little or 
nothing and, unless we are guided by ample and very 
exact perception, are almost always misleading. If, for 
instance, I read that "the predominance of abstract 
thought over concrete thought is characteristic of Kant/* 
how am I the richer? I have only gained a phrase 
which may be indisputable, but is yet no more than a 
phrase, and indisputable only in so far as it contains 
nothing but a nebulous generality. No one con think 
without perceiving, and no one can perceive unless he 
can form ideas* We shall see presently that Kant's 
intellect possessed a peculiar power of perception, 
whereas many of the so-called intuitive thinkers, that is 
to say men who devote themselves rather to ocular per* 
ception, like Goethe for example, continually mix up 
utterly unimaginable thoughts with their so-called 
intuition. We cannot hope to arrive at a conception of 
the individuality of an intellect by mere verbal portraiture* 
This would give us at most but a flat picture, whereas 
I am penetrated with the desire to furnish you with a 
perfect plastic representation. Comparison alone can 
serve us to this end. We are apt to undervalue the in- 
tellectual differences between man and man ; they a*e 
immense, not only in respect of plus and minus, but also 
in tespect of the rl how " in men of equal importance* 



GOETHE 17 

Here we shall find that Nature has prescribed to the 
thinking of each individual limits from which there is no 
escape, a matter to which we shall call attention in a 
future lecture. It follows that if we choose the right 
men for the purpose of our comparison, the strong 
shadows cast by these models will bring the picture of 
Kant's mind, the peculiar characteristics of his world of 
thought, more and more into relief. 

The first important consideration is, whom should we 
choose for our models ? I do not propose to start by 
justifying my choice ; its worth must prove itself. 
One thing only I will say, which is that I cannot endorse 
the views of the average modern German who in the 
Philosopher sees no more than a species of the genus 
Professor. We need not undervalue the meritorious 
activities of the expert, especially in the investigation 
and exposition of the history of human thought, and in 
the education of our sons ; and yet we have a right to 
require that some distinction should be drawn between 
professional knowledge and genius* Kant himself lays 
stress upon this, 4 We do not bestow the title of artist 
upon a man who is a professor of the history and theory 
of art ; nor do we for an instant compare him with those 
divinely favoured men, whoso work has given birth to 
the material for a science of art. We should make the 
same distinction here. " Pure Philosophy is a product 
of Genius/' says Kant, and Goethe repeats the same in 
his own fashion* 

Is it only the poet that is born? The philosopher is born no less. 
Truth can alter all only be seen when brought into form. 

All that we consciously perceive, aU our ideas concerning 
intellectual and moral entities, all our pictures of the 
world at our feet and of the cosmic universe, come to 
us as the inventions of single supreme intellects. An 
image conveying the sense of the unseen; a thought 



i8 GOETHE 

which gives intelligible shape to that which is seen, a 
combination of a series of disjointed phenomena into one 
connected whole, are just as much a work of creation 
as an epic or tone-poem. 6 The mere expression of such a 
thought is not sufficient to give it life and enable it to 
bear fruit ; it must at the very outset possess certain 
potentialities with which genius alone can endow it ; 
it must be " brought into form/' otherwise it could not be 
perceived. These are matters which we are apt to forget 
in the indolent enjoyment of what has become an heredi- 
tary intellectual property. It is little by little that our 
store of ideas, " rendering possible this system of philos- 
ophy/' has grown rich, but the process has been very 
slow* Up to the present time thoughts capable of 
illuminating have been few and far between ; and the 
incitements to new thoughts and new surveys of the world 
have for the most part arisen not out of philosophy, but 
out of the progress made in natural science and mathe- 
matics, or out of absorption in religious sentiment* 
That may possibly be the reason why, of the thinkers 
who have made epoch in the world, hardly one has boon a 
philosopher by profession, and why the world has no 
reason to congratulate itself upon the period when in the 
nineteenth century the " pure philosophers " ruled 
almost alone,* Even Kant started his career as a savant 
not with philosophy, bxit with mathematics, physics, and 
theoretical astronomy. He was originally professor of 
mathematics, and owed his chair of philosophy not to 
the wisdom of the university authorities, but to the 
accident that his colleague who occupied that chair was 
desirous of an exchange of duties. Even in his ripest 
old age Kant preferred to read about anthropology, 
geography, physics, mathematics, and the science of 
fortification ; whereas he never once lectured upon hit 
own metaphysical doctrine. He was led to his investiga- 
tions of the whole range of the human intellect by the 



GOETHE 19 

necessity of securing an indestructible foundation for 
practical philosophy, that is to say "the method of 
educating and ruling mankind" (Letters, I, 138), and 
for exact natural science. In the letter which I have just 
quoted he says, with a sigh, " I shall be glad when I shall 
have brought my transcendental philosophy to a con- 
clusion/' Here there is one more reflection to be made* 
Logic and dialectics, which together with history make 
up, and properly so> the main subject of so-called " philo- 
sophical" education, have no significance beyond that 
of a discipline. It is impossible, in spite of all attempts, 
to compare them with mathematics, for mathematics, 
at any rate geometry, which is their only constructive 
branch, arc perception, and even though this perception 
be subject to certain limitations, it still, being perception, 
leads us on fxirther and further ; its growth knows no 
end, and its interchange of relations with all sciences is 
endowed with perpetual life and newness. Logic, on the 
contrary, is nothing but a school of method. We may 
admit that that is no small matter, but what we must 
learn to recognise here is the fact that a knowledge of 
logic, like reading, writing, and arithmetic, can at most 
only indirectly contribute to the building up of a system 
of philosophy. Logic is like a mill, a mill incapable of 
extension, but in the use of which we can, by practice, 
to a certain limited extent perfect ourselves* A mill, 
however, is of no use unless there be grist to grind, and 
this grist is no produce of the stark, lifeless millstones, 
but grows out in the open, genninating in the dark 
mystery of the earth, coaxed into life by the burning 
rays of the far distant sun. 

This is why, in our wish to compare other men with 
Kant, we shiall lay no stress upon their belonging, or not 
belonging, to any special guild of learning ; it is its area, 
its Ruminating power, its creative fullness, and its 
oiganic consistency which lend value to a system of 



20 GOETHE 

philosophy. It is for that reason that in a former work* 
I have proposed to draw upon the wealth of the German 
language in order to distinguish between " philosophy " 
and the German word " Weltanschauung/' The word 
philosophy, borrowed from the Greek, must always bear 
the meaning of a learned or scholastic discipline. The 
German word implies a predisposition allied to religion 
and mythology, altogether human, but developed in all 
manner of different directions, with a network of roots 
nourished by art and science, by philosophy and mathe- 
matics, a tendency the foremost aim of which is to 
establish a harmony between the outer eye and the inner 
eye, or should this figure of speech be too bold, between 
seeing and thinking and conduct, 7 If, then, we should 
press into our service the words philosopher and WeU&n 
schauer,^ drawing the same distinction as we have done 
between philosophy and Weltanschauung, we should 
know exactly what manner of men to select for the 
purpose of comparison. Not every philosopher has been a 
Weltan$chau6r> and the great Wcltanschaucrs have been 
poets, painters, statesmen, physicians, priests, mathe- 
maticians, historians, now and again also, philoso- 
phers. 

For reasons which will by and by reveal themselves, 
and which I venture to hope will be justified, I have chosen 
for the purpose of comparison, the following five men : 
Goethe, Leonardo da Vinci, Ren Descartes, Giordano 
Bruno, Plato. I shall devote a lecture to each of these, 
not indeed with the object of giving a complete account 
of their several systems of philosophy, but in order to 
analyse the method of each one, and to contrast it with 
that of Kant, As a matter of course, Kant must be 
the first consideration throughout ; a sixth kcturc must 



* Tk* Ftwwfatfmt *f *fo t/i*et*tttfk Ctntery^ German Edition, 
P* 736* 

t A man who observes or contemplates the yteni$ of the univerte 
moral and physical 



GOETHE 21 

be given up entirely to him, while the results of the 
previous lectures will be turned to account and sum- 
marised in its interests. 

Much might be added as to the plan which I have in 
view, but I think that for the present the above indica- 
tions will be sufficient. The names of Goethe, Leonardo, 
Descartes, Bruno, and Plato are known to everybody ; 
they are all that is necessary as a first guide on the road 
over which I hope to travel in your company. I do not 
wish to tie myself down to any tedious hard-and-fast 
scheme, but propose to deal with the subject-matter 
in each lecture just as the instinct of the moment may 
suggest. The man who pursues some living thing is a 
hunter ; all his senses must be on the alert, he must know 
when to wait and when to strike. There shall be no 
ostentation of learning, nothing at any rate which might 
in the professional sense be called learning. I am but a lay- 
man who is addressing laymen. We will not quibble about 
words t we will only keep our eyes open for an unpre- 
judiced observation of that which is obvious to every 
man who takes the trouble to watch, Kant himself, in 
his severe way, says, " Subtle errors have an attraction 
for self-conceit which delights in the consciousness of its 
own strength, whereas obvious truths, on the contrary, 
are easily grasped by common sense/' 8 That which is 
best is the common inheritance of us all; for, as the 
Bible points out, God has given us eyes that we may see. 
Besides this our aim shows us the road which we must 
follow, and in kindly fashion limits our task. We cannot 
even rpake an attempt at anything like completeness, save 
only in the perfect plasticity of every conception at which 
we arrive. We shall make it a principle to avoid busying 
ourselves with any particular thought until we are 
equipped with a sufficient material for perception; 
on the other hand, as soon as we have a clear sight of 
such a thing, we shall spare no time, but turn the subject 



22 GOETHE 

over and over again, until we have investigated it through 
and through. In order to furnish such subject-matter as 
may be indispensable to perception, I shall in each lecture 
introduce an excursus which, though it may appear to 
lead us away from the subject, will in reality help us 
to grasp it. " How," says Kant, " can we gain sense 
and significance for our conceptions, unless we supply 
them with some form of perception, which must be an 
example drawn from a possible experience ? >M> 

In these lectures I do not aim at an interpretation of 
Kant's theoretical teaching ; what I look to is perhaps 
more limited, but certainly more difficult ; my object is 
nothing less than to draw near to Kant, to enter his actual 
presence. The worst fault in the civilisation by which 
we are surrounded, is that it paralyses the intellect* 
Our obligatory school curriculum and the pressure on all 
sides that cramps us on leaving school, forcing ns into 
definite paths, acts as a stencil on our method of thought ; 
the press does the rest ; under its fateful gorgon-glance 
every feeble attempt at independence is nipped in the 
bud. Without the power of motion there can txs no such 
thing as understanding. When Kant says, "\ve only 
understand that which we do ourselves," he of course 
means his dictum to be applied as a criticism of recogni- 
tion, and is referring to the human intellect in general ; 
but it is a saying which is applicable to all understanding* 
In order really to understand a given personality in the 
methods of perception which are peculiar to itr-nat 
merely entering into arguments as to the doctrine* which 
are the result of that perception, we need the faculty of 
imitating its special methods, its predilections, tricks 
and knacks, in short, of working and constructing, as it is 
wont to do itself, Kant often assorts* that outward 
Imitation leads to inward sympathy; for instance, if 
you always answer a sulky young giri with a friendly 
smile, by degree* she will be converted to amiability I 1 * 



GOETHE 23 

A joke that is full of the deepest sense. If Kant is as a 
rule little understood, if his writings are considered too 
difficult, it is above all because his personality in its 
intellectual peculiarity is utterly unknown. We, how- 
ever, are apt not to trouble ourselves about that, but 
must needs go straight ahead, deluding ourselves with 
the idea that out of a series of words strung together, we 
can simply and without more ado become acquainted 
with his perceptions* That could only be the case if Kant 
had nothing new to tell us. The meaning of a word, apart 
from the hard-and-fast stencil of it, is always fluctuating, 
A word is no coin representing an equal value as it is passed 
from hand to hand. On the contrary, the word grows 
with the man who utters it ; it may be broad or narrow, 
definite or indefinite, rich or poor, brilliant or colourless, 
according to the intellect whose servant it is ; it travels 
in space so that the range of ideas which the same word 
reaches is often quite unequal in various persons, ideas 
sometimes hardly intersecting one another. How specially 
is this the case with a Kant ambitious of effecting a Coper- 
mean revolution I And yet that very upheaval must be 
carried out with the old words ; how otherwise would he 
make himself understood ? But how are we to give a right 
value to the old words if they carry a new meaning ? 
There is no royal road out of this dilemma, for we can only 
understand a man's thoughts from his words, and his 
words from his thoughts. And so it may be justifiable 
to attempt the paradox of setting the conception before 
the doctrine, and to represent the personality out of its 
work, not in its work, justifiable not as a universal 
method, and yet as one among many methods. 

One last remark and I shall have brought these intro- 
ductory considerations to a close. 

The road on which I hope to act as your guide will not 
lead to a knowledge of learned and professional philosophy. 
What I have already said is enough to show that ; still, 



24 GOETHE 

I am bound to insist upon this fact clearly, expressly, 
and once for all. In order to grasp what lies at the root 
of an individual's peculiar way of thinking, more mobility 
and dexterity of mind are required than what the pro- 
fessional philosopher can claim, or even allow, when ex- 
posing his abstract system ; but, of course, this mobility 
has to submit to special limitations ; we cannot study 
personality and systematic philosophy at one and the 
same time. As Goethe says in a famous sonnet, " not 
only does the master mind reveal itself in its very limita- 
tions," but, as we see in every form of life, whatever is 
" masterly " arises only within such limitations. When 
we burst the barriers we wreck the form* We shall often 
have to allude to philosophical theorems ia these lectures ; 
but it is not the theorems but the personalities of the 
thinkers that are the centre of interest ; there it is that we 
shall find the informing law. Put this idea into a formula 
and it would run, it is not the thoughts that count, 
but the method of thinking out of which those thoughts 
proceed. Thinking, however* is revealed in thought, and 
thus it is clear that the material with which we have to 
deal is in the main the same as that which has been 
worked up by professional philosophy ; for long distances 
we shall have to travel close along the frontier, and shall 
have before our eyes the same boundary stones a the 
professional philosophers. But we shall take our survey 
from a different point of the compass from theirs, and so 
see in another light and in another perspective. The same 
thought will assume a different form. That is what you 
must never forget, otherwise you will be expecting from 
me something outside of the scope of my undertaking, 
and will feel disappointed when you find that a laborious 
study of the works of the learned still lie* before you ; 
at the same time you might easily undervalue the signifi- 
cance of my attempts. Against both of these ideas I enter 
my protest* 



GOETHE 25 

To-day, then, we shall speak of Goethe, that is to say, 
we shall compare Goethe's method of seeing and of 
treating what he sees, with that of Kant. 

Goethe himself challenges the parallel. After praising 
Kant in a conversation with Eckermann as the " most 
pre-eminent of all philosophers, "and declaring that Kant's 
thoughts had penetrated German culture to such a 
depth, that from that time forth even those who had 
never read him could by no possibility escape from his 
influence, he makes the following remarkable observation ; 
" Instinctively I followed the same road as Kant/' 
It is well that we should have this upon the authority 
of Goethe himself, otherwise I should run the risk of being 
accused of hairbrained paradox, if not of the audacity 
of a dilettante, for daring to claim relationship to one 
another for two such opposites. But Goethe was a man 
every one of whose words might be weighed in a gold- 
smith's scales ,* so when he says, " I instinctively followed 
the same road as Kant," he is making a clear, distinct, 
and decisive statement, which no one can pass by un- 
heeded. In talking with Eckermann Goethe certainly 
thought it unnecessary to bring forward any deep reason 
for what he said, but confined himself to a few curs6ry 
explanations of little value for Eckermann was but 
meagrely equipped in philosophy, and at that time was 
generally unacquainted with Kant's writings. On the other 
hand, we possess elsewhere in Goethe's works ample 
justification of this remarkable statement, more especially 
in the precious series of short essays, Einwirkung d& 
ntueren Philosophic, Anscliauendt Urteilskraft, Bedenken 
und Ergebung, and in many other places. But even if we 
were not in possession of these documents* I would pledge 
myself to show, from the life's work of the two men, 
the meaning of the words, " I followed the same road as 
Kaat" 

Any detailed account of the influence of Kant upon 



26 GOETHE 

Goethe's method of thought would be out of place here. 
Without embarking upon history, our only desire is to 
lay stress upon the fact of the close relationship between 
the two. In regard to this a remark of Goethe's own is of 
importance : " It is by no means a matter of indifference 
at what period of life we come under the influence of a 
strange personality; that it was upon my mature age 
that Kant made his influence felt had a deep significance 
for me." It is easy to see what he means if we compare 
the rest of his utterances about Kant* Had they been 
received prematurely the germs of such a searching 
analysis of thought, the mature work of a man who was, 
as it were, born fully mature, would have threatened the 
independence of Goethe's power of perception ; as it 
happened, Kant entered his horizon of thought at the 
psychological moment, and gave him, as Schiller did, 
something which he had not possessed up to that time, 
although it must have lain dormant within him. " For 
the first time/' says Goethe of his maiden attempt to 
penetrate the Critique of Pure Reason, " a theory seemed 
to smile upon me.' >n And yet this work was but little 
fitted to serve a Goethe as an introduction to an apprecia- 
tion of Kant, The real intimacy only began with the 
Critique of the Power of Judgment, of which Goethe said 
that he was indebted to it for " a most happy epoch in his 
life/* In Goethe's mouth the word " epoch " in worthy 
of note. For the full ripeness of Goethe's existence* com- 
prising the last forty years of his lite, remained under the 
influence of Kant, or to put it better* Goethe's philosophy 
from that time forth stood in reciprocal sympathy with 
that of Kant 1 * In March, 1791, Goethe wan already deep 
in Kant's writings ; for the Goethe archives contain & 
notebook of that date with extracts all in Gwtht/s hand- 
writing. Not long afterwards came thu dcctoivt* influence 
of the intimacy with Kant'a most talented disciple, 
Schiller, Goethe himself bears witness*,-**" over and over 



GOETHE 27 

again I returned to Kant's teaching . . . and gained 
much for my everyday use/' For in the meanwhile he 
had once more taken up the Critique of Pure Reason, 
and he had succeeded, as he tells us, in " penetrating 
more deeply into it," and that indeed because he had 
recognised that it was impossible to estimate Kant's 
philosophy by means of that fragment of it which is con- 
tained in the Critique of Reason, but that his different 
works, " all the children of one brain, are continually 
interdependent." It is no matter of wonder, then, that 
the old man who had grown so anxiously scrupulous in the 
use of his predicates, should love to speak of Kant in 
superlatives. So in 1825 he writes of " our glorious Kant," 
and in 1830 of the " boundless gratitude which the aged 
Kant has earned for himself of the world and, I may add, 
of myself/' 13 And six months before his death he says 
emphatically of Kant's philosophy, " it made me watch 
over myself an enormous point gained/' 14 

Though this historical connection is only interesting 
parenthetically, I have thought well to say so much 
briefly as a general guide to the understanding of a rela- 
tion which almost all Goethe's biographers have deliber- 
ately left unnoticed. 15 Let us now without further delay 
turn our attention to the living personality, 

A page or two back I alluded to the allusion in the 
Bible as to the gift of eyes that we may see. If ever a 
man was gifted with eyes that he might see it was Goethe, 
Just as the heart is the living centre of ouf body, from 
which all the blood ebbs and to which it flows again! so 
is the eye the centre of Goethe's intellectual life; he 
says himself, "The eye has been the organ above all 
others with which I have grasped the world " (Wahrhett 
und Dicktung, Book 6), Almost all the decisive im- 
pressions of his life are received through the eye: in 
order to love Schiller he mtist see him. His eye is an 
organ which there is no satisfying, and what it has seen 



28 GOETHE 

it retains, changing it into flesh and blood and bones, 
" I am just one of those Ephesian goldsmiths, who pass 
their whole lives in watching and wondering and adoring 
the marvellous temple of the Goddess, and in copying her 
mysterious forms." Thus spoke Goethe as a man of sixty- 
three, xc and herein lies the secret of the wonderful 
phenomenon that Goethe never ceases to grow, that 
even as an old man with every returning spring, like a 
venerable oak tree, he puts forth leaves as fresh and 
green and young as a sapling in its first year. The process 
of nourishment never ceases. It is the eye which 
establishes the connection between the individual and 
nature : the other senses take a second place : the intellect 
on the other hand whether it be a simple ganglion in 
the first segment of the earthworm, or a powerfully 
developed brain-substance inclosed in the hard skull, is 
always lying hidden in unattainable depths, separated 
from the world, a born egotist. The eye is the bridge. 
What would be the use of this bridge the eye unless 
somewhere in the darkness of the fortress tlwre were a 
king waiting for his guests, a magic-working king, trans- 
forming all things at his pleasure, ordering all things in 
the manifold boundlessness of nature after a human 
standard, and out of the world of law and insensibility 
fashioning a world of Freedom and the soul ? Haitifently, 
however, it must make a great difference whether an 
individual throws the weight of his activity inwards or 
outwards, whether he is contented with a few impres- 
sions as possible from without, and takes his delight in 
working these up, or whether ho stands night and day 
on the watch, seeking to enrich himself with new and 
yet newer treasures of thought. The words of hte own 
watchman, Lynceus, are in the fullest sense applicable 
to Goethe" Born to see, trained to perceive/' Indeed 
those words cany a double meaning, His eye$ were 
" born ** with the gracious gift of seeing, but they were 



GOETHE 29 

beyond that systematically and strictly " trained " from 
his youth up. Goethe's intellectual development might 
be described as a conscious and self-imposed consumma- 
tion of the power of sight. Here we have a process of 
will running parallel with the law of nature in regard to 
the progressive advance of age. In youth it is the artistic 
sight of the soul which is dominant. " The world around 
me and heaven rest in my soul like the image of the 
beloved/ 117 Later on it is the method of perception of 
the maturing man which comes to the front, observing 
incessantly, enquiring, comparing, seeking to understand 
nature in her being and in her processes ; when he nears 
his sixtieth year Goethe confesses, " Though it was a 
pain to me at first, I had at last to think myself lucky 
that while the artistic sense was threatening gradually 
to leave me, the scientific sense developed itself with 
more and more force in eye and mind/' 18 and while thus 
the watchman's eye was adapting itself with instructive 
wisdom to the changes wrought by years, the magician- 
king, working in secret, was in harmony with him, 
forming new conceptions out of new impressions. Thus, 
for example, we see Goethe's religion lifting itself out of 
the fanatic mysticism of his youth, when the only re- 
proach which he could find against the Roman Catholic 
faith was that it did not recognise a sufficient number of 
sacraments, to the stern loftiness of his religion of the 
four venerations with their mystic symbolism and simple 
worship of nature- Here again in his inmost soul he 
mirrors what his eye has seen. 

It would be carrying owls to Athens were I to attempt 
by examples to prove to a German audience the pie- 
dominant part played by the eye in Goethe's life. la this 
respect his poems speak for themselves, and need no 
commentary: his scientific discoveries the inter- 
maxillary bone, the law of antagonism in colours, etc, 
are all the practical outcome of his power of sight : his 



30 GOETHE 

contributions to natural science his doctrine of meta- 
morphosis, and his studies in optics, are in reality not 
scientific theories, but anti-theoretic expositions of facts 
actually observed. To see ! to see ! to see ! was the 
law of each succeeding day. " Goethe sees at every 
pore," says Emerson. His duties and labours were 
indeed manifold. From inspector of mines, examiner of 
accounts, and philologist, to theatrical manager, news- 
paper editor, and experimentalist in physics, he was 
pretty well everything that a man can be, and under the 
pressure of business one thing after another was apt to 
fade out of his horizon, even poetry was often laid 
aside. But to one thing Goethe remained faithful during 
almost every day of his long and rich life, and that thing 
was devotion to architecture, sculpture, and painting. 
However much he might be engaged in enriching the 
store of what he had seen with his eyes, from the obser* 
vation of the earth's crust, and the revelations of the 
deepest shafts sunk into its bowels, to the watching of cloud 
forms and the play of colour between light and shade, 
however busy he might be in adding to his knowledge by 
studies in anatomical museums, by microscopical and 
telescopical work, by experiments in optics, and much 
more besides, there was hardly a day in Goethe's life 
when he was not, in addition to all thi$> actively and 
systematically at work, studying sketches, engravings, 
paintings, numismatics, plans, and elevations of archi- 
tecturally important buildings, or painting and drawing 
with his own hand, and, when he was on bin travels, 
visiting monuments, galleries, collections, and the like. 
This was the passion of his first youth, and when lie wa 
actually dying, he spoke of pencil sketches of which, in 
his delusion, he believed himself to be turning over the 
leaves. In him, then, the exercise of th<* eye was not 
merely passive, but uninterruptedly active and creative, 
Of the significance of this in forming an opinion of the 



GOETHE 31 

great thinker Goethe you will be able to judge from 
words which he wrote as early as his twentieth year. 
" How certain and how enlightening to me has been the 
strange and almost incomprehensible aphorism that the 
studio of a great artist does more for the development of 
the philosopher in embryo and the poet than the lecture 
room of the worldly-wise and the critic " (Letters, 9, ir, 
68), and so " through art to wisdom " was Goethe's 
motto. In his case the philosopher and the poet walked 
hand in hand : they were not contradictions, but two 
sides of his character, each the complement of the other. 

Here we have the important point, for in it lies the 
whole essence of the contrast with Kant, and if we 
rightly grasp its significance we shall be able to realise 
many other points of contrast in the mental portrait 
which we form to ourselves of the two men, For instance, 
the constant living flow of development, to which I have 
called attention, is a necessary result of the predominant 
power of the eye. The eye can seize no more than what 
is present before it. The man who surrenders himself 
entirely to its influence, will always be passionately 
attached to the immediate impression which is partly 
conveyed by the object itself, and partly by the capricious 
nature of his own eye, Kant, as you will presently see, 
guards himself mistrustfully against any such influence, 
he shuts his eye : Goethe on the contrary does homage 
to the " almost incomprehensible aphorism " that the 
philosopher can only rise up like the grass-haulm tinder 
the sunbeam of the open eye. 

The most generally known example of the capricious 
impressionability of Goethe's eye is his attitude towards 
Gothic art. Brought up from childhood in the belief 
that Gothic and want of taste were synonymous, as a 
young man he shudders at the very thought of Strasburg 
Cathedral; " at the sight of a, monstrosity all twists and 
curls/' 10 He goes there and, standing before it, finds 



32 GOETHE 

" the work to be so sublime that he can only bow his 
head in adoration." Every German knows the glorious 
first sheet in Goethe's work on German architecture, 
dated 1772, in which he apostrophises the creator of the 
Cathedral : " Thanks to thy teaching, thou genixis, thy 
depths no longer make me giddy. Into my soul there 
falls a drop of the blissful repose of the spirit that can 
look down upon such a creation below, and, like God, 
declare that 'it is good/" But Goethe left Strasburg, 
and it so chanced that for many years he had no oppor- 
tunity ol seeing any important specimens of Gothic 
work : ao he himself tells us, " the impression died out, 
and I hardly remembered the conditions in which such a 
sight awoke in me the liveliest enthusiasm. 11 * 1 The eye 
seems to be incapable of memory, and even though 
Goethe like every true genius was gifted with a marvellous 
memory, no lingering remembrance coxild be expected to 
hold its own against the living impression of the moment 
in an individual with such extraordinarily artistic 
faculties ; so ho renounces his earlier faith, and will have 
no more to say to " the sturdy, coarse, German soul/' 
which inspired his first artist-hymn, nor to the ** most 
wood-cut of all figures," of " the manly Albrecht Diirar M 
which he once loved ; for like the German kings of old, 
he too had crossed the Alps, and hud been caught into 
the toils of foreign beauty. When he had be#n no more 
than ten days in Venice, and had become intoxicated with 
new artistic impressions, he wrote of Gothic art, " Thank 
Heaven I am quit of thai for ever I"** But that was 
not to be the last word* Goethe was some sixty years old 
when his acquaintancewith the brothers Ifcftaitwfc indut&d 
him once more to interest himself in Gothic architecture, 
and not in architecture alone, but also in Dutch and old 
German painting. Goethe dived deeply into the study 
of the paintings of the Van Eycka and Lucas Cranach, 
and wrote about them with fine warmth. 8 * In talking of 



GOETHE 33 

the drawings of Albrecht Diirer he apologises for the fact 
that his criticism " is nothing but a web of praise," by 
saying that it " will be long before either he or his readers 
will again meet with such a justification for praise/' 2 * 
Once more he takes the pilgrim's staff in hand, this time 
not in order to expatiate upon the " divine genius " of 
Palladio in the city of lagoons, but in order, by visiting 
the cathedrals of Strasburg and Cologne, to fan into new 
flames the old fire of his youthful enthusiasm for German 
architecture. 25 He finds himself, as he tells us, quite at 
home again in the surroundings of early years, and truly 
rejoices in " the youthful pamphlet in which he had 
undertaken to utter the unutterable/' 26 Above all he 
never lost his interest in that " projected world's wonder/ 1 
Cologne Cathedral. With the help of etchings, plans, 
and pictures, the living work arose before his eyes as it 
would one day be, and over and over again he cast his 
weighty vote in favour of the completion of a building 
which he now judged to be " the most excellent and 
noblest work that perhaps ever was built upon earth 
with a consistent appreciation of art/' 87 

Heaven forbid that we should see in this fickleness, as 
some commentators do, the influence of aesthetic theories. 
They are beside the question. The real foundation of 
the inconsistency lies in the domination of the momentary 
impression made upon an individual endowed with an 
unusually sensitive eye. It is with this sensitiveness that 
one whole side of Goethe's intellect is connected, and it 
is of this that he himself says, " with my character and 
my habit of thought a new opinion has always swallowed 
up and pushed aside those that had preceded it " (D.W. 
15). In art as wdl as in all subjects to which Goethe 
directed his attention, if we compare all his sayings, we 
shall find an almost superhuman honesty of judgment 
which proceeds from the clearness of his vision. On the 
other hand, in almost every utterance of his, taken by 
r. D 



34 GOETHE 

itself, the careful reader will sec how passionate admira- 
tion of one thing goes hand in hand with detestation of 
its rivals, even in his later days, when he had long since 
become a master of the art of self-control and of con- 
cealment of his inmost being. 

Without going into detail we have now examined this 
question fairly at length, and that must suffice for the 
present. At most I should like to add, for fear of any 
misunderstanding, that when I speak of " the eye *' 
alone, I include the whole sensitive faculty. The ridicu- 
lous tale of an unmusical Goethe, the invention of certain 
none too gifted philologists, is contradicted by hundreds 
of the most profound observations upon the essence of 
music in Goethe's writings : it is refuted by his friend- 
ship with Zelter, and by the living interest which during 
thirty years he took in the musical work of that friend, 
and in his labours on behalf of the furtherance of music : 
it is refuted by his intercourse with musicians at all 
times, but above all by his noble poem on " the divine 
value of sound/* and by the admission that the ** gigantic 
power of music unfolds his heart as a clenched fist is 
unfolded in friendship/ '** and when, fifty years before 
Richard Wagner, this Prince among poets lays down the 
doctrine, flouted by the whole brood of aesthetic pygmies, 
" Music is the true element from which all poetry springs 
and to which it flows back/ 1 this one utterance absolves 
us from the obligation of going into any further detail. 11 
There is one more dictum only which I should like to 
mention, because as it first appeared in the Weimar 
edition it has not yet been turned to account ; it settle* 
the question of Goethe's estimate of music once for all, 
" If language were not incontestably the highest gift 
that we possess, I should place music even above language 
and on the highest pinnacle of all/' 10 

Let us now turn to Kant, that brother sage, who, a* 
we have seen, exercised such a strong power of attraction 



GOETHE 35 

over Goethe. It is hardly possible to imagine a greater 
contrast. 

Should you be unacquainted with the chronological 
details a few words will suffice to fill in the gap. Kant's 
life moves in a perfectly straight line, which no event 
either objective or subjective ever diverts even for a 
moment from the direction once laid down. He was 
born at Konigsberg, brought up in the local gymnasium, 
as a student took up mathematics and philosophy for 
his special work, 81 became a private tutor, then 
" magister," then Professor, at the age of twenty-one he 
wrote his first work, in which we find these remarkable 
words : "I have already laid down the path which I 
mean to follow: I shall set out upon my course, and 
nothing shall prevent me from following it up/' 82 he 
then travelled straight along this prescribed road for 
more than half a century without losing even a single 
day ; for he never obeyed the calls to other universities, 
nor even left Konigsberg for a single day, not even for 
the shortest pleasure trip. In this way he remained at 
work undisturbed " thinking himself out," until his 
intellectual faculties were extinguished. 

You see then that the course of Kant's life, the outer 
life of the man as well as the inner life of the thinker, 
was one of unexampled simplicity. You have but to 
consider the fate of a Democritus, a Socrates, an Ab&ard, 
a Giordano Bruno, a Descartes, a Leibniz in order to 
sec that perhaps no philosopher ever to the same degree 
and in the same way lived altogether, solely, and undis- 
turbedly for thinking* 

So fax as Kant's intellectual personality is concerned 
this ctirsory consideration will help us to draw with 
infallible accuracy certain conclusions as a foundation 
upon which to build a living understanding of his philos- 
ophy. This homely existence, ordered with iron tenacity, 
points to a life of thought the features of which are 



3 6 GOETHE 

broad, simple, and consistent. The ruling power is a 
strong, rugged, passionless will, or perhaps we should 
rather say a will which inexorably fights down all those 
inborn passions of which there is no lack of evidence, 
forcing them into the channels which he chooses ; and 
this rigidly determined scheme of life helps us to expect 
with certainty; that we shall come in contact with an 
order of thought strictly and arbitrarily planned, mani- 
festly organised upon a few leading principles. Beyond 
all this Kant's whole life bears witness to a necessity for 
thinking abnormally predominant over the necessity for 
seeing. As a matter of fact it is in this respect that Kant 
represents the exact antipodes to Goethe. 

We may say of Kant that from his youth up ho forcibly 
closed his eyes and ears, the whole machinery of the 
senses. In spite of all inducements he never went further 
from KSnigsberg than a neighbouring property, and 
even that he could not put up with for long, because all 
change of surroundings disturbed his thoughts : only in 
the height of summer he would sometimes spend a couple 
of days in a forester's house, where in the whispering 
woods he wrote his bright and amusing Qb$$rvatiott$ on 
the feding of the Beautiful and Sublime ; but this is the 
utmost limit to which he went in any sympathy with 
the charms of landscape scenery, and in any inclination 
towards becoming intimate by travel with the features 
of our good mother earth. There is an old German 
proverb which says, " Knowledge must be wandered 
into/ 1 For Kant that had no meaning* To one of bis 
friends he writes, " All change frightens me, and I think 
it my duty to bear in mind this instinct of my nature " 
(Letters, x, 2x4)* Nor was he in any way attracted by 
towns where the concentration of life brings out so much 
that is new in social, commercial, scientific* and artistic 
relations. That the contemplation of a fine building, the 
sight ol a painting or a statue by the hand of genius, the 



GOETHE 37 

listening to the living performance of a love-poem should 
belong to those experiences which like a flash of lightning 
reveal the higher sense of being, setting free the indi- 
vidual out of that most cramping of all bonds routine, 
throwing us in tears of admiration upon the bosom of 
long-departed souls, urging us to deeds which we dream 
that we can accomplish at once, but which our grand- 
children's children will hardly live to see : of all this 
Kant knows nothing, or if he knows aught of it, he 
resolutely holds himself aloof from it. The craving to 
hear and to see, the longing of a soul hungering for a 
noble joy of sensation, is something in which he has no 
part. The reading of a few Latin and German poets 
whose verses he has stamped upon his memory in great 
numbers, suffices his modest need of artistic impressions. 
His dwelling is entirely without ornament ; he has no 
aesthetic needs of any sort, except indeed a taste for good 
and elegant clothes, and even that may be ascribed to 
consideration for other people ; of pictures he declares 
that they are only hung out of vanity : with the one 
exception of a portrait of Rousseau, his walls must 
remain bare. But this refusal to see goes still further. 
As a devotee of natural science he has the opportunity of 
becoming curator of a natural-history museum, and that 
too at a moment when every dollar must have been an 
object to him ; we know what an important part of his 
life's energy Goethe devoted to the formation and 
extension of all manner of collections : Kant was not 
long in resigning his post, which to him seemed an object- 
less occupation, preferring to live in pentory so long as 
he could give up his life to his thinking, father than 
spend his time and waste his energy in the study of a 
host of specimens. In the same way he occupied himself 
during his whole life with physic^--confining himself 
absolutely to the mathematical side of the science and 
neglecting the experimental side, and interested him- 



38 GOETHE 

self passionately in chemistry without ever having seen 
a test-glass or a retort. 

If all these had been the peculiarities of a commonplace 
person they would not be worthy of attention : dull, 
soulless people, are all round us, and learned men whose 
optic nerves only react upon printers' types, and have 
never in their lives seen anything but blackened paper, 
are plentiful enough. The only interesting point is the 
fact that Kant was naturally gifted with extraordinary 
keen organs of sense, and an almost fabulous power of 
observation bound up with an equally astonishing gift 
of imagination, Kant's eye was large, beautiful, and 
clear : his contemporaries were never weary of praising its 
magic fascination ; to the last he could read the smallest 
print* His hearing was so extraordinarily sharp that 
even a distant rustling disturbed him. A physician 
bears like testimony as to his sense of smell. And like 
his senses, so also his imagination was of absolutely in- 
comparable plasticity and exactness- The most interest- 
ing of the contemporary biographers of the Konigsberg 
thinker, Jachmann, lays great stress upon tins, and 
brings forward many instances in support of what he 
says. On one occasion, for instance, the presence of a, 
Londoner at a party led to an allusion to Westminster 
Bridge, when Kant supplemented the Englishman's 
deficiency in observation and power of description with 
an exact account of the structure, the dimensions 
and style of which were so familiar to him, that the 
listeners took him for an Englishman and an architect I** 
We are told the same about his minute knowledge of 
Italy. Goethe's longing for " das Land wo die Citronea 
blflhn" was foreign to Kant's nature; yet people who knew 
what they were talking about could hardly bo persuaded 
that he had not lived there for years, so precise was hte 
knowledge of every detail of the country and its cities,** 
We have plenty of further evidence to the same purport. 



GOETHE 39 

What Vasiaaski also tells us of his political insight, 
points to a rare power of perception : he was fax quicker 
than Goethe in seeing through the characters and gifts of 
the chief personages in the great drama at the end of the 
eighteenth century, so that as Vasianski says, "people 
thought that they were listening to the talk of a diplo- 
matist versed in the secrets of the cabinets." Even more 
astounding, because their correctness was more quickly 
proved, were Kant's military and strategical forecasts as 
to the revolutionary wars; it was a time when his 
intellectual powers were already rapidly fading, indeed, he 
was beginning to lose the command of words ; yet the 
exact plastic conception of the geographical condition 
of the European countries remained actively alive in 
him. The study of geography and anthropology had 
from all time been his favourite occupation. His lectures 
upon these subjects were so fascinating that his lecture- 
room could hardly hold the crowds of his audiences, for 
besides the students there were many savants and men 
of the world who were in the habit of attending them. 
To quote the words of a contemporary, " in these lectures 
Kant was all things to all men, and it was perhaps in 
them that he gained the most useful and powerful 
influence over the men of his time." The older he grew 
the more exclusively, says Jachmann, " did he refresh 
his mind after his philosophical flights by reading about 
natural objects and phenomena/' One of his colleagues 
says, ** mathematics and physics, including chemistry, 
were the subjects from which Kant preferred to furnish 
his library/* Another says, <f he read enormously, espe- 
cially works on physics, history, and anthropology, but 
most of all books of travel/' A third tells us, " he seldom 
read philosophical books, not even those which were for 
or against him/' 35 Kant, indeed, and this may be a 
comfort to some of us, when he had finished working up 
his own brilliant system of philosophy, became more and 



40 GOETHE 

more unable to make himself at home in the thought 
world of the scholastic philosophers : the most he was 
able to do was energetically to repudiate Fichte's Wissen- 
$chaft$lehre, not because of any interest which he found 
in the book in itself, but simply because Fichte professed 
that it was based on his own (Kant's) doctrine. Natural 
science and geographical discovery remained his favourite 
study, and Jachmann assures us that " there is certainly 
no available book of travels which Kant has not read and 
graven in his memory/' Kant's refined and mathematic- 
ally correct conception of the special characters of the 
different European nationalities, needs no further proof 
than the fourth section of his Observations on the Feeling 
of the Beautiful and Sublime. I doubt, for instance, 
whether the Frenchman has ever been so sharply and so 
exactly analysed as he has been by this man who perhaps 
never in all his life set eyes upon a Frenchman, This is 
nothing but the power of perception. All this, and I 
pass by many of the most striking examples for fear of 
wearying you shows us a man who docs not spend his 
days in puzzling out abstract ideas , but who carries in his 
brain a world of riches, a world which he perceives in its 
real shape, though with his eyes he has never beheld it ; 
a man who peoples every country with these beings, 
human and others, which are peculiar to it, and can 
represent cities as if he had been present at their building. 
When such a natural scientist as Karl Gottfried Hagcn, 
the author of the Principles of Chemistry, tells us of his 
speechless astonishment when he found Kant versed in 
all the details of experimental chemistry, although he 
had never in his life witnessed on experiment, we are 
bound to admit that Kant possessed an unheard-of 
power of conception with the most accurate faculty of 
apprehension. For chemistry is a science founded on 
perception, possessing no mathematical framework like 
physics, which therefore except by practical work in 



GOETHE 41 

the laboratory seems to afford nothing which memory can 
lay hold of. 

What then is it that distinguishes Kant's marvellous 
power of conception from that of Goethe ? 

Kant's power of perception is, as it were, the converse 
of that of Goethe. Of general impressions as conveyed 
by the eye, of what is called intuition, he is almost 
unreceptive ; but, on the other hand, when out of its 
various parts he can see a Whole arise, then his intel- 
lectual eye perceives it and holds it fast, and he is able at 
any time to take it to pieces or put it together as in the 
cases of Westminster Bridge, of a chemical combination, 
of the French national character. This characteristic of his 
intellect, which you may see here at work as it were 
superficially, penetrates the deepest depths of his philo- 
sophical method of thought. Thus, for example, in one 
of his searching metaphysical discussions, Kant writes, 
" We can only understand that which is our own work/' 
and further, "we cannot perceive the combination of 
parts as ready-made to our hands, we have to make it 
for ourselves ; we must combine if we are to conceive 
anything as combined, even space and time " (Letters, 
2, 496), But according to Kant " all phenomena are 
looked upon as aggregates or masses of given parts/' 
that is to say as combinations (Reine Vernunft, 204), 
and consequently to him every perception represents 
something made, a " combination/' 

Although a man like Kant is naturally large-minded 
enough to be accessible to broad general impressions which 
are incapable of analysis, we yet see that he is not at his 
ease in such conditions : thus, for example, he says of 
the sight of the star-studded heaven : " it gives us un- 
developed ideas which may perhaps be felt, but which do 
not admit of description " (Natural History and Theory 
of Heaven, conclusion): clearly even in this case, and even 
if he has to admit that the ideas are " undeveloped/' he 



42 GOETHE 

is still under the impression of ideas and of ideas in great 
numbers, for he needs parts in order to convert them 
into a whole- This is the exact contradiction of the 
postulate which Goethe sets up in his first conversation 
with Schiller, " that nature must be portrayed by working 
from the whole to the parts." 3 * Here you have in con- 
trast two diametrically opposed methods of perception. 
But it will not be until we reach a further stage in our 
lectures that we shall be able to trace to its roots what it 
is that in this connection differentiates the two men. 
Let us for the present content ourselves with this first 
simple observation, and say, Kant is no artist, his eye 
is not receptive and therefore not creative. In his case 
it would be impossible to say that the optic nerve pene- 
trated the brain from the retina, but we should rather say 
that the brain projected itself into the retina : for with 
him seeing is a true analytical function of the brain. 
While Goethe can say of himself, " the sense of sight is 
the sense by means of which I am best enabled to grasp 
the outer world/' 37 Kant is compelled to confess, " I 
only see what I think/' That is why seeing is such a 
strain upon him, and why he prefers to see, and sees 
better and even more sharply, when his eyes are dosed. 
Great analytical keenness combined with a limited 
imaginatior* is the necessary result of this physical dis- 
position ; for imagination does not spring out of our own 
human self, but its material is drawn from the outside 
world as from a fountain. The essential organ of all 
creative artists is the eye, the eye which has no concern 
with ideas whether developed or undeveloped, but, as 
female principle, accepts lovingly and without question 
whatever the impression of the senses as male principle 
ia pleased to bestow upon it : the analytical power of 
thought with its creation of new combinations fo a 
secondary consideration* Thus we see how an eminently 
artistic intellect like that of Goethe differs essentially 



GOETHE 43 

from that of Kant in its way of setting to work in order 
to arrive at any general philosophical conclusion. Goethe 
gives utterance to this as plainly as possible when he 
confesses, " I am completely puzzled when I make any 
attempt at comparing things side by side." It is not in 
his power like Kant to combine them into a whole, but 
on the contrary he has to see the whole in order to be 
able to understand the parts with all their peculiar pro- 
perties as parts, " My manner of looking upon and 
dealing with natural objects, is to start with an impression 
of the whole in order to arrive at an observation of the 
parts " : that is what Goethe says of himself : 38 and, 
therefore, in order to understand nature, he is compelled, 
compelled by the peculiarity of his intellectual facul- 
ties, to proceed as Seer and Poet, that is to say to 
create by means of perception. 

We are now able to see in all clearness the contrast 
between the intellectual faculties of these two person- 
alities. The one, Goethe, lives with his eye ever open 
and only arrives at thought by means of perception; 
the other, Kant, lives with his eyes closed and it is only 
by thought that he arrives at seeing. Still, I must issue a 
warning against attaching too great weight to any such 
formula: it serves no purpose beyond defining our 
momentary position. It is no more than a first compari- 
son, a first picture, something like the distant view of 
a mountain-range on the horizon. We have to draw 
nearer ; however much we may be lacking in science, we 
cannot afford to be superficial; and for that reason 
we must not hurry over the reciprocal relation between 
perception and thought. If the intellectual personality 
of Goethe is to lead us to a knowledge of that of Kant, 
we must in the first place become acquainted with it. 
And yet who can boast that he knows Goethe, the man 
who surveyed all nature ? Up to the present there are 
but few who know him* 



44 GOETHE 

Perhaps it will be Kant himself, the incomparable 
analyst of the human intellect, who will give us a clue to 
put us on the right way. Towards the end of the intro- 
duction to the Critique of Pure Reason, we read, " There 
are two branches of human knowledge, which perhaps 
spring from one common root unknown to us, namely 
sensibility and understanding, the first of which furnishes 
us with subjects which the second enables us to think." 
This saying deserves lasting attention, it is as it were a 
first step in metaphysical thought. Still, it would be a 
very superficial verdict if we were rashly to make the 
assertion that in Goethe one of the two branches, sensi- 
bility, was highly developed to the prejudice of the other, 
while the converse took place in Kant. In Goethe's 
observations of nature it is precisely the understanding 
that is so extraordinarily prominent ; hardly any other 
man has to the same degree enriched natural science 
with ideas, as contrasted with discoveries. As a matter 
of fact the relationship between the two " branches " is 
extremely complex. The two, sensibility and understand- 
ing, are as necessary to perception as they are to thought. 
And the degree to which both play their part in the same 
individual on the one hand in perception and on the 
other in the thinking out of the subject perceived, is a 
chief cause of the difference in the intellectual qualities 
of various personalities. The meaning of this can only 
be made clear by a concrete example, and so I shall 
venture to insert here ajn excursus on Goethe's doctrine 
of metamorphosis* In this way we shall search out the 
inmost depths of those intellectual qualities of which we 
have up to the present only been touching the fringe. 
The direct relation to Kant, of which you already have 
some conjecture, will then at once unveil itself before 
your eyes. 

All the world is familiar with Goethe's account of his 
first important meeting with Schiller. Goethe, still in 



GOETHE 45 

the innocence of his heart, unconsciously making use 
of his own methods, lays before Schiller his doctrine 
of the metamorphosis of plants, and with a few strokes 
of his pencil produces a sketch of his Urpflanze, the 
primeval plant. Schiller listens attentively, but then 
shakes his head and says, "That is no experience, 
that is an idea." Goethe, nettled, replies, " Well ! I 
am glad that I have got ideas, without knowing it, and 
that I see them with my eyes/' Something seen with 
the eye : that is precisely the meaning of the Greek 
word Idea. Plato's ideas spring from such an intense 
craving for perception, that to him every single object is 
in his eyes a mere shadow. It is quite possible to possess 
an idea, without being conscious of it as a reasoning 
process ; that, as we shall see in a later lecture, is what is 
continually happening to us alL But what we have 
chiefly to bear in mind here is the inpossibility under 
which the perceptive genius labours of distinguishing 
between his ideas and his experiences, until the analytical 
thinker has cleared matters up for him. Until Goethe's 
meeting with Schiller the transformation of one leaf-form 
into another, or the change of vertebrae into a skull, was 
something quite as concretely " perceived," and conse- 
quently " experienced, 11 as the single plants and the 
single bones which he had studied. 

Here we have at last arrived at the contradiction 
which has been so often alluded to in the precise form 
which is exactly suited to our investigation, namely the 
contradiction between experience and idea. The open eye 
like the closed eye was the mere physical symptom of an 
intellectual tendency: the contrast between sensibility and 
understanding would have led us to a purely metaphysical 
discussion of the human intellect in general ; a distinction 
between perception and thinking remains theoretical un- 
less an appreciation of the practical difference between 
Idea and Experience has led the way.* Here then we 



46 GOETHE 

must bring our auger into play. We are all the more bound 
to do so inasmuch as this question oi the relation be- 
tween idea and experience, expressed with such striking 
terseness in that conversation between Schiller and 
Goethe is continually recurring when we speak of seeing, 
and will therefore often occupy us in these lectures, where 
the different way in which the world appeals to different 
personalities will claim our chief interest. For this 
relation between idea and experience forms an axis, 
round which our conception of what is in general meant 
by " perception " revolves. The great Goethe himself 
from the year 1794 was incessantly occupied with this 
problem. He recognised clearly that it is " as mis- 
chievous exclusively to obey experience, as it is uncon- 
ditionally to follow the idea/' 40 Unremittingly he turned 
the question round and round, hoping to find a solution of 
the riddle* He perceived that the contradiction between 
idea and experience corresponded analogously to that 
between sensibility and understanding, between seeing 
and thinking, between analysis and synthesis, even in a 
certain sense between physics and metaphysics, between 
object and subject, between phenomenon and reality. 
Reflection invariably shows that in each case these 
twin contradictions are rooted the one in the other ; 
practice proves everywhere that the inclination of the 
one is to destroy the other* Like negative and poftitive 
electricity, they mutually attract and repel one another. 
If we follow Goethe's thoxxghts upon nature & matter of 
far greater intellectual import than the barren chewing 
of the cud of Faust and Tasso, and which has only become 
satisfactorily possible by the splendid second part of the 
Weimar editionwe shall see this question continually 
cropping up* In the treatise on Colour he writes : "Here 
it is that the practical man in experience, and the thinker 
in speculation, tires himself out, and a contest arises for 
which there is no peaceable or decisive conclusion/' ** 



GOETHE 47 

Against the presumptuous narrow-minded attempts of the 
so-called " practician," Goethe is ever ready to break a 
lance on behalf of the rights of the Thinker, that is to say, 
of the rights of the understanding, of the idea, of synthesis, 
indeed even of metaphysics. If this statement should 
seem startling to men who have been brought up in the 
tradition of an unphilosophical as well as of an unmusical 
Goethe, I am in a position to quote his own words : 
" But here we shall above all confess and declare that 
it is in full consciousness that we find ourselves in the 
region where the metaphysics and natural history overlap, 
where the serious and trusty investigator loves to linger " 
(W.A. 2, 6-348)- Pray note this expression, "loves to 
linger." And yet his own conception of nature and of 
life is too manifestly rooted in perception ; he is a too 
objective thinker, and above all the eye, which reveals 
phenomena to him, is too completely the ruling organ 
in his personality for him ever, even momentarily, to be 
inclined to be false to the material world of empiricism. 
Wordsworth's famous lines : 

To the solid ground 
Of nature trusts the mind which builds for aye, 

might have been coined for Goethe, with the characteristi- 
cally limiting addition that Goethe only finds " solid 
ground " where there is something for the eye to see, 
whereas he feels mistrust and even repulsion for every- 
thing which the Physicists have to say about an invisible 
nature. When the philosophical botanist, Link, tries to 
confirm certain ideas of Goethe's on the growth of plants 
by bringing into comparison movements of the pendulum 
and of waves, so far from being flattered, the scientific 
poet resents this " introduction of modern, indeterminate, 
sublimated abstraction/ 1 ** and in writing to Schiller 
about the result to which his " observations of nature '* 
Jead, he says : " It becomes! m t act, the world of the eye, 



48 GOETHE 

and all reasoning resolves itself into a sort of theatrical 
performance" (15, u, 96). 

Pray remember this expression, underlined by Goethe 
himself, the world of the eye. The importance of it you will 
only learn by degrees in the subsequent lectures. For the 
present let us content ourselves with one remark ; it is 
the world of the eye whose law leads Goethe unconsciously 
to bind the innumerable units of experience into a few 
ideal entities ; as the flower needs the sun, so does this 
philosophy expand under the bright rays of illuminating 
ideas. But ideas do not originate in mere empirical 
experience, but in reason ; and so perhaps you may 
begin to suspect that Goethe's way and Kant's way, 
though they may seem to diverge here, are bound to 
meet again in the end. 

Do not let us undertake more for the present than we 
can hope to accomplish to-day. My first principle in 
these lectures is to keep you from all abstract thought ; 
that is tabu. Indeed, as a general principle I would 
warn you against all straining of thought ; nothing 
is more hindering to the understanding, Goethe hits the 
mark when he says, " Thinking does not help thought/' 
What we call our special thoughts are a gift of nature ; 
there is no acceptation of the thoughts of others without 
a patient, open surrender of self. Besides this, I shall 
avoid attempting to lead you into the field of pure 
thought, until we shall have gained a perfectly cleat con- 
ception the material for which can only be gathered 
together step by step. 

Let us go back to the conversation between Schiller 
and Goethe, There could be no better theme upon which 
to build. 

Schiller shakes his head and says, " That is not ex- 
perience, that is an idea/' For simplicity's sake I just 
now agreed with him, as so often happens. Yet, il he 
was not altogether wrong, he was certainly not altogether 



GOETHE 49 

right. The matter is not so simple as all that. Goethe 
was far rather justified in " ieeling annoyed " and obsti- 
nately holding to his point. He and Schiller had quite 
unconsciously seized upon the question of metamorphosis 
at the very point where idea and experience imperceptibly 
overlap, that is to say at the metamorphosis of the plant 
leaf. It will not take long to explain the meaning of this 
assertion. 

The Greek word morphe signifies form or shape, and 
metamorphosis means change of form. It is a misfortune 
for the scientific use of the word that Ovid's meta- 
morphoses have given it an ineradicable mythological 
ring. The poet begins : " I am about to sing of forms 
changed into new bodies/' and so we learn how Actaeon 
was changed into a stag, Narcissus into a flower, Atlas 
into a mountain all metamorphoses, with many more 
beautiful symbolical legends by which nature is pressed 
into the service of human imagination. In the case of the 
poet we know exactly what he means by ** metamor- 
phosis " ; but we can defy any man to give a dear defi- 
nition of the word when it is applied to natural science. 
Sometimes it stands for a demonstrable historic change 
of one thing into another, just as it does in Ovid's forms ; 
sometimes we apply the word to the different phases 
of development of some individual living being which 
changes its shape ; sometimes it means an hypothetical 
or even purely ideal return of different forms to a more 
or less conceivable, sometimes altogether inconceivable, 
primitive type, in which some see an actual historical 
ancestor, while others see no more than the necessary 
conception of the human intellect working out a system 
of order in a monstrous chaos of material, Goethe 
himself , who was so little capable of sifting the difference 
between experience and idea, has never declared clearly 
which of these several meanings he wishes us to assign to 
metamorphosis and the transmutation of organic forms ; 



50 GOETHE 

it is doubtful whether he himself has any certain ideas 
upon the subject. Here, again, it must not be words or 
definitions, but concrete notions, that must guide your 
thoughts. 

If you wish to obtain an antidote against the mystical 
and poetical conceptions of the word metamorphosis, 
and yet at the same time to preserve its concrete applica- 
tion by the Roman poet, you can find a solution of the 
difficulty in the language of modern geologists* The 
term metamorphic is applied to rocks which, in conse- 
quence of physical influences, such as heat, pressure, 
steam, and the like, have undergone a chemical and 
structural transformation. It is certain, for example, 
that all the mica schists and varieties of gneiss were 
originally deposits like the lime and chalk formations 
and the sandstones ; probably they were rich in organic 
remains : but there came a time when by lasting or short, 
but enormously powerful, influences, they wore altered 
through and through, the component parts were set free 
or fused, what petrifactions they contained were 
destroyed, so that a unified crystalline rock took the 
place of stratifications with their rich variety of deposits. 
The chemical composition, no less than the physical 
quality of this new rock, is absolutely different from 
what it was before. Here we have a completely con- 
crete, material metamorphosis ; one thing has been made 
into another, and this is pure experience, not idea,~~or 
rather let us say that there is only one thing in it which 
is idea, namely, the idea by which we recognise the new 
rock as being the same as the old, and therefore assert that 
it has undergone " metamorphosis, although in fact 
the former rock has ceased to exist, but has made place 
for an entirely new one. 

The moment we take organic nature into consideration 
the matter becomes more complicated* Think, in the 
first place, of the most familiar example, the butterfly. 



GOETHE 51 

The caterpillar creeps out of the egg ; after a while the 
caterpillar imprisons itself in a cocoon or capsule; 
an entirely new creature comes into being, the pupa or 
chrysalis, in which all the inner and outer organs undergo 
a far-reaching transformation. The conditions of life in 
this new inert being are so remarkable, that many pupae 
may be preserved for years, under the influence of cold 
for instance, without prejudice to life; at last the capsule 
is thrown off, and what was once a worm dragging its 
loathsome body painfully from one flower-stalk to 
another, issues forth in the shape of the brilliant butterfly 
flitting from flower to flower on airy wings. 

This metamorphosis of the butterfly, a phenomenon 
of frequent occurrence in the vegetable and animal 
kingdoms, Goethe called " the successive, obvious 
metamorphosis/' Although we must admit with awe 
that here we meet one of nature's inscrutable marvels, we 
unhesitatingly claim this species of metamorphosis as a 
simple " experience." As a matter of fact, there is 
doubtless a great deal of " idea " in our interpretation of 
it : Goethe himself ended by suspecting as much ; but 
it will be better for us to proceed further without philoso- 
phising, and bring out another example, which is also 
quite " obvious/' but which, instead of exhibiting a 
successive metamorphosis a succession of changes, 
shows what Goethe calls by way of contradistinction " a 
simultaneous " change. 

Here we have the skeleton of a cat. I want you to 
take no notice of the rest of the picture, but simply to 
fix your eyes upon the vertebral column from the skull 
to the tip of the tail. 

If you count the bones of the spine and of the tail you 
will find that they are forty-six in number, or forty-four, 
if you should fail to observe that where they are attached 
to the pelvic bones, three have grown together into one 
single mass. 48 No one will hesitate for a moment to 



52 GOETHE 

recognise every one of these forty-six bones as a vertebra. 
Even a savage would, I believe, understand and endorse 
the statement that we have here the same bone repeated 
forty-six times ; at any rate, we know by experience that 
our children have no trouble in mastering this notion. 
The homogeneous conception of this chain of bones is 
brought home to us on all sides ; we recognise the mani- 
fest conformity to certain leading features of the structure 
of the several members, their evident connection for the 
formation of one homogeneous mechanical bodily axis, 




the proportional distribution of their physiological 
function as protectors of the spinal cordL And yet, if you 
look more closely into this chain of bones, this forty-six- 
fold repetition of one single form, you wfll sec that no two 
of them are perfectly alike. We are in the habit of 
recognising the bones of the front and hind legs as 
analogous, but we are careful to distinguish between them 
and give them special names ; yet they correspond far 
more nearly than the vertebral bones. Here arc the 
first and last vertebrae of another cat's skeleton* 

Is there in this wide world anything more different ? 
The <me is a tiny, cylindrical, elongated little bone* with 
small club-shaped thickenings at each end, the other 



GOETHE 



53 



is a powerful bone, vertically compressed, horizontally 
winged. And now with this first vertebra, the so-called 
Atlas or carrier, compare the second vertebra, which 
anatomists call the Epistropheus or the turner. It is 
extended lengthwise, compressed in breadth, furnished 
with a high dorsal ridge, which stretches beyond the 
other vertebrae both front and back. Here, again, is an 
entirely new form absolutely unlike the other two. 
And now that your eye has been sharpened, pray look 
once more at the spinal column as a whole ; observe the 







high spiny processes on the dorsal vertebrae, no two of 
which are exactly alike ; observe how these thorn-shaped 
processes are suddenly pressed forwards, not backwards, 
in beak shape, whereas the vertebrae in the lumbar 
region exhibit more and more powerful processes directed 
diagonally downwards, with, as a new peculiarity, 
swellings which extend forwards and backwards on both 
sides, 

We need go into xxo further detail ; we have gathered 
material enough to ask ourselves seriously by what right 
we include these bones, all differing from one another, in 
one idea which we call ' * vertebra/ 1 I say idea intentionally, 
because obviously there can be no homogeneous concep- 



54 GOETHE 

tion, no patently visible form in which this Atlas, this 
spiny dorsal vertebra, this smooth caudal bone, could be 
included, unless with the help of theoretical reflection 
we should think out a typical vertebra or ideal vertebra 
as you may please to call it the shadowy existence of 
which does not exist outside of our own brains. Even 
the development of the cat in the womb will not help us 
to the conception of a neutral vertebral 
form, as it were. For even if in the early 
life of the foetus there should be a stage 
when the so-called primary vertebrse lie 
the one behind the other in the shape of 
similar discs, what does this mean but 
that we are not able to detect the latent 
potential changes which will soon mani- 
fest themselves ? 44 More than that, these 
so-called primary vertebrae are not even 
the parents of our vertebrae. It is rather 
muscles and ligaments that Jt is their 
function to produce; then along the 
whole length of the dorsal axis the so- 
called perichordal tube arises without any 
indication of divisions. Later a scries of 
changes takes place, out of which at last 
the true vertebra proceed in such a 
manner, indeed, that every single true vertebra takes up 
fractions of two different primary segments, to which 
other forms again are added to complete the vertebra,- 
forms which in no wise touch or are in relation to one 
another, varying in different portions of the axis of the 
body. 

I think you will agree that in this conception of the 
vertebrae it was not experience alone that was at work, 
but also idea, and indeed idea playing a considerable 
part. You will probably feel some hesitation when you 
look at these .forty-six different bones, and a Goethe 




GOETHE 55 

teaches you that they are all evolutions of primary 
vertebrae which were once uniform and entirely alike, 
and therefore to be conceived.as originally related to one 
another, just as the butterfly is related to the chrysalis 
and the caterpillar ; that the vertebral chain of bones 
is an example of " synchronic transformation," of 
simultaneous metamorphosis. You will probably be 
inclined to shake your heads and say with Schiller, that 
is rather idea than experience. The " transformation " 
of something which only, or perhaps even hardly, exists 
in my imagination and only floats before me as a sym- 
bolical type, may be a useful thought, but it is surely a 
bold one. You must however consider further that this 
thought is no mere abstraction, but an " idea " in the sense 
of Plato to which I have alluded above. We are dealing 
with the perception of what is seen as a combined whole, 
with what the famous Greek philosopher called a synagoge. 
It is as if these many vertebrae laid a burthen upon our 
power of conception, as if they disturbed the eye and 
did not allow it to attain that power of sight which 
"rests quietly and purely upon objects/' 45 Goethe 
himself, who " strove to compass the organic world with 
passionate senses/' 46 suffered much under the plethora 
of forms, and from the consequent impossibility of taking 
them all in. His whole rich work in the fields of botany 
and zoology is directed to one single endeavour which we 
may sum up in the words, he wished to make visible to 
others what he himself had seen. Kant, as you will 
remember, closed his eyes before the multitude of pheno- 
mena, whereas Goethe came to the assistance of the eye, 
and simplified the image by condensing that multitude 
into a few ideas* What we look upon as theoretical in 
him, and what has therefore alienated the poet from so 
many of us, is all in the interest of the comprehension of 
that "world of the eye/' Even his optics cannot be 
understood until we realise that the work is no less than 



56 GOETHE 

a heroic attack against invisible, arithmetical schemes 
on behalf of conceptions capable of being perceived. 
This " simultaneous " metamorphosis cannot then by 
any possibility in his case be a mere idea, but is on 
the contrary, if I may say so, experience and something 
more, 47 

The contrast between a metamorphosis which is 
consecutive and almost entirely empirical, and a meta- 
morphosis which is simultaneous and almost ideal, will 
have given you some definite notions as to the relation 
between experience and idea within the scope of this 
range of thought ; and now at last you can understand 
to what extent the so-called " metamorphosis of plants M 
stands precisely upon that critical point where experience 
and idea overlap one another, so that it is impossible to 
draw a boundary-line. The metamorphosis of plants is, 
indeed, at the same time " successive " and " simultane- 
ous " consecutive and synchronous ! Both conceptions 
are permissible ; the question of which we should choose 
depends upon the point to which wo turn our attention, 
and that is why we can hardly avoid here the interchange 
between experience and idea. That Goethe at this point, 
where the problem, as it were, slips through our fingers, 
began his comparative studies* is less a matter of accident 
than of instinct : for it was precisely the wavering stand* 
point between experience and idea that was calculated 
to furnish him with the right impetus for the attainment 
of what he wanted for his " world of the eye/' 

Here you have several plants picked at haphazard 
in the fields this morning* Although Goethe's interest 
was first excited by the sight of the Fanpalms in the 
Botanical Gardens at Padua, it is characteristic of his 
doctrine of the metamorphosis of plants that he did not 
keep in view trees or that branch of the vegetable king* 
dom which i$ richest in forms the cryptogams or non- 
flowering plants, but first and foremost directed bis 



GOETHE 



57 



attention to those herbs which come quickly into growth 
and bloom and as quickly die. 48 What gives this a 
special importance is the fact that Goethe's doctrine 
rests in no way upon scientific analysis, but exclusively 
upon perception. A peculiar amalgamation of the ideas 




of rest and motion, of " being " and " coming into being/' 
here takes possession of what he actually saw, transform- 
ing the phenomena of inscrutable nature into ideas better 
adapted to the comprehension of the human mind. 
This creation of Goethe's sometimes reminds one of the 
higher mathematics ; there is the same violent bursting 
open of a dosed door 4 *,; indeed, the analogy is quite 



58 GOETHE 

complete, except for the fact that in the one case it is the 
realm of abstract perception, in the other that of con- 
crete perception which is dealt with. 

If we look at these plants we shall see a creature 
complete from the root to the flower. It is just as 
finished, self-contained, and definitely inclosed within its 
own limits as our skeleton of the cat. The leaves, as 
you see, vary in form ; the so-called cotyledons at the 
foot of the stalk are simple, not crenate or indented, 
whereas the others are crenate though in different degrees, 
the segments growing deeper at first from leaf to leaf, 
and then again decreasing. 

In these other plants you will never find two leaves 
exactly alike in shape: here, for instance, the lower 
leaves are fifty or a hundred times larger than the upper 
ones. There are other cases where the polymorphism of 
the leaves is even more pronounced. But you must look 
further, and consider the flower. We cannot help being 
struck by the leaf-nature of these single petals, which can 
moreover be proved by important anatomical evidence, 
and especially by their position in relation to the stem ; 
and this holds good of the inner whorls, the stamens, 
and the organs of fructification, however much to the 
outer eye they may seem to differ from green leaves. 
All this is the gift of what Goethe calls " our guardian 
angel, the Genius of Analogy/'* Of course, petals are 
not leaves any more than leaves arc petals ; their structure 
is in many particulars a different living organism, and 
this is even more true in the case of the sexual organs ; 
and when Goethe says, " We know that the $ttm*Jteave$ 
are only preparations and pro-indications of the flowers 
and reproductive organs/' 51 I confess that such an 
exaggerated figure of speech seems to me to be most ques- 
tionable* The stem-leaves are the most important 
nutritive organs of the plant ; to describe them merely 
as " pie-indications " of the petals, has no more sense 



GOETHE 



59 



than if I were to call the stomach a pre-indication of 
the brain. We see what this leads to when. Goethe sets 
up the monstrous assertion, " The female part of the 
blossom is no more a special organ than the male " 62 ; 
this brings us to a doctrine of final unity, and science is 
ruled out of court. Let us, however, for the moment 
accept the analogy and agree to refer all these organs 




to the one idea of lc leaf/ 1 reserving certain reflections 
for further consideration hereafter. This whole series 
of leaves stands before our eyes in the same way as the 
series of vertebrae in the cat's spine. We see them aU 
before us, side by side, each fulfilling its special function. 
If we should look upon these forms as " transformations/' 
we can only treat them! as in the case of the vertebral 
column, as a synchronous or " simultaneous meta*noj> 
phosis/' that is to say, as a pure idea, and Schiller is 



60 GOETHE 

right when he says, " that is not an experience " ; for 
even though the leaves are developed successively, no 
one leaf arises out of another, nor are green leaves 
changed into petals, as the butterfly is developed out of the 
pupa, but the transformation merely refers to one general 
idea in our brains, called leaf. That, however, was not the 
way in which Goethe, in the first instance at any rate, 
considered the matter on the contrary, he practically 
starts with the conception of an analogy with the con- 
secutive transformation of insects ! Let me explain how 
that came about. 

When Goethe began to busy himself with such matters, 
the metamorphosis plantarum was a pet phrase and 
shibboleth of the investigators of nature of that day 
with their muddled generalisations. For example, in a 
dissertation which Linnaeus himself, though not its 
author, sent to the press in 1755 under the above title, 
we read, " The green caterpillar-skin of the plant bursts : 
but together with the lacework of the calyx it remains 
hanging to the main body of the plant which continues 
to shed its skin . , the caterpillar-skin remains like the 
green bark of the stem, but the butterfly peeps out 
merrily aixd flaunts the gay colours of its petal wings/'** 
Here we have a true pattern of false analogies which 
might commend itself to some modern Ovid, but would 
certainly not suit any investigator of natural history. 
Now Goethe stood under the influence of the Linnaean 
school; when he began to work at botany its works 
were his " daily study/* and he has left us many direct 
and indirect proofs of that fact The Philosophic 
Botanica of Lirmasus had taught him that under certain 
conditions of soil petals are changed into green leaves, 
and conversely green leaves into petals, Principium 
forum et foKorum idem csi. Luxurians vegetatio folia e 
forilms continuando producit, etc* The whole of these 
and similar " facts " are published by Linrueus tinder 



GOETHE 61 

the title of Metamorphosis Vegetabilis.** That is the 
origin of Goethe's use of the word metamorphosis, which 
was a misfortune, inasmuch as it led him and others 
astray : but it also accounts for the first incentive to an 
idea possessing such a penetrative power of observation, 
that Goethe was justified in saying that he saw his idea 
with his eyes. 55 

In order to understand this we must leave the stand- 
point of Rest, which we occupy so long as we remain in 
contemplation of these finished plants, in order to take 
up that of Motion. These annuals are all of quick growth : 
their whole vegetation only comprises a few months. 
That is why Goethe conducted most of his observations 
in this field in Italy, where it is possible to watch the 
breaking out of new leaves from day to day and their 
growth from hour to hour. " What in the North I only 
suspected, here (in Frascati) I find revealed " (Letters, 3, 
10, 87). Now, however, I must call your attention to 
this : the stem of these plants is a simple form of axis : 
it grows upwards, and as it grows so-called nodes or 
joints are formed at fairly regular intervals : at each 
node a leaf is produced : this process goes on without 
variation, and even where the leaves surround the stem 
in whorls, as they do here in the corolla of petals, a 
closer observation, and the evidence of frequent mal- 
formations, go to show that in this case we must accept 
the presence of greatly shortened internodes. We human 
beings who are the result of the polymorphism or great 
variety of form in the animal body, find such a striking 
uniformity in the plan of this vegetable structure, ttiat we 
are at first inclined to notice nothing beyond the strict 
repetition of similarity, and it is not until later on that 
our attention is arrested by such differences as exist. 
Johannes Miiller, the great physiologist, has remarked 
that it is not the recognition of reason, but imagination 
which detects in the plant " a manifold whole made up 



62 GOETHE 

of identical members/' 6e Goethe gave expression to the 
same idea in poetic form : 

A driving consecutive force> raising itself, renewed, 
Node towering on node, but always the same first form.* 

We see the simple stem, detect the simple law, in 
obedience to which on every node it bears a leaf, and 
look upon the leaf as an equally uniform entity, " always 
the same first form " : we start from the preconception 
of " identical members/' and in our eyes it is always one 
stem carrying one leaf repeated indefinitely. That is 
what logicians call a " subreption/' that is to say a 
fallacy arising out of impressions of the senses. Now 
imagine a man gifted with the most lively fancy, and an 
almost unbridled passionate nature, who under the 
sunny sky of Palermo and Naples watches the plants 
growing under his very eyes 1 Every morning ho sees a 
new development in the same identic member, and every 
morning it assumes a new shape, differing from that of 
the day before ; it grows in breadth it grows in length, 
the outline varies with the many motions of the plant ; 
suddenly, without any interval, the organ contracts 
itself into a small smooth-edged calyx leaf, spreads out 
once more into a coloured corolla, again shrivels into the 
almost dustlike anther, again widens out as it were with 
the force of a last breath of life into an ovary or seed- 
vessel, which the investigator breaks open to find the 
tiny germs of the future cotyledons of a new plant. For 
a man in such a frame of mind there is in all this no 
standstill, no rest ; the motionless plant is to him a thing 
in motion, the form of a bdng undergoing a daily process 
of change ; as for the leaf which is really firmly fixed, 
which, until the autumn nets it free, remains an un- 
changed as a crystal, Goethe ce& in it " & very Proteus 



Gleich darauf em fol#n<tar Trieb, kh erhcbcnd, roetmt 
Knoten auf Knoten gcturmt, immer da* ftrstc GtabildL* 



GOETHE 63 

which can show itself in all manner of shapes " ; 68 he 
sees the metamorphosis taking place under his eyes ; as 
a human bosom heaves and sinks, he sees the leaf spread 
itself out and contract, from cotyledon to fruit, and 
his ears ring with " the six footsteps of Nature." 59 In 
all this, as you see, he perceives motion and continuity. 
He ignores the fact that as in the vertebral column of the 
cat, so al$o in the plant the different parts are in close 
relation, absolutely autonomous, and moreover of un- 
equal physiological value, in his mind he is dealing 
with a true, consecutive metamorphosis, and just as 
the caterpillar is transformed into the butterfly, so in 
this case he sees the practical transformation of one 
thing into another thing. "It is no dream, no play of 
fancy," he assures Frau von Stein (Letters, 10, 7, 86). 

That is why Goethe, who thought that his eyes had 
witnessed the transformation of the leaf a thousand times, 
and upon whom, as he says, this perception had acted 
with the driving potency of passion, 60 was taken aback 
and nettled when Schiller, the man who seldom turned 
his eye to organic nature, critically and calmly met him 
with the observation, " that is no experience, that is 
idea*" It was just in this conception of the metamor- 
phosis of plants that Goethe imagined himself to have 
the most intensive " experience " : it was from this that 
he derived the excessive wealth of his power of observa- 
tion : it was this that led him to the idea of metamor- 
phosis in the rest of organic nature. At the beginning of 
his Italian journey we find him oppressed by the varied 
richness of plant forms : " I do not yet see how I ain to 
disentangle myself," he writes from Padua. He lacked 
some intermediary organ which should enable him to 
take in, that is to say to experience, the whole field of 
life. " What is perception without thought ? " he asks 
in the same letter, a question which we shall have to 
discuss very fully in our later lectures, but which already 



64 GOETHE 

shows us what limitations we must set to ourselves 
before we accept the saying that Goethe was all eye as 
something to which a comprehensible and true meaning 
can be attached. There is no true perception without 
thought. A great seer must also be a great thinker. 
The special part which thinking, as organ of perception, 
must have played in Goethe is clear from his own ad- 
mission, " no true keenness of sight : hence the gift 
of seeing the charm of things," 51 and from the other 
saying, " sight itself is thought." 1 ** We shall see clearly 
that as a matter of fact Goethe's sight was not keen, 
when in the next lecture we compare him with Leonardo 
da VincL* 3 Kaspar Friedrich Wolff was an example of 
keen sight, when armed with his dissecting knife and 
microscope he laid the foundations for the comparative 
anatomy of plants. Wolff showed that we have no right 
to speak of the origin of the parts of a living being until 
we have learnt to distinguish between the three following 
things : histological elementary structures, tissues in 
their varieties, and organs. 04 Next he observed the 
practical history of the birth of the stem and its side* 
organs ; he discovered the point of vegetation, followed 
the genesis of the vascular system out of cells the walls 
of which are reabsorbed* studied the growth of the leaf, 
etc., and upon the basis of all these observations he came 
to the conclusion that all the parts of the plant might bt 
referred either to stem or leal* 5 Wolff made many mis- 
takes, yet his method was that of strict empirical natural 
science* Goethe did nothing like that : ho was not fitted 
for work of that kind ; a few weeks after he had uttered 
his cry of despair at Padua, " how am I to diaen tangle 
myself ? What is seeing without thinking ? " he wrote 
on a scrap of paper, " Hypothesis : everything is leaf ; 
and it is this simplicity which renders possible the 
greatest complexity/ 1911 He now at last saw that he had 
removed the cataract from his inward eye ; thinking and 




^<i'HJi ' M * jM<i 



GOETHE 65 

perception were in harmony, and in this way experience 
streamed into both his inward and his outward eye ; 
the whole world stood revealed to his gaze. From 
Naples he writes to Herder that he now has at his 
command, not only all plants that exist, but even those 
that do not exist, but possibly might exist, and he exclaims 
with intoxication, "Nature herself must envy me." 67 And 
now comes Schiller, the scholar and thinker, and, so far 
from envying him, shakes his head ! 

I may hope that my short exposition may have sufficed 
to make you at one and the same time intoxicated with 
Goethe and critical with Schiller, for such a frame of 
mind alone can give rise to an exact conception of the 
importance of Goethe's true doctrine of metamorphosis, 
and, as a result of that conception of his method of 
perception, to an appreciation of the relation between 
experience and idea as it presented itself to his mind. 

You will have remarked in what a peculiar fashion in 
his conception of the metamorphosis of plants the ideas 
of motion and rest, of simultaneity and sequence, of 
unity and plurality are so to speak superposed the one 
upon the other. In the insect world this does not take 
place, or to speak more exactly it does not take place in 
any striking fashion, for in the case of insects the one 
develops itself out of the other in course of time even 
in the vertebral column it only takes place out of 
sight, for there from the outset the one is immovably 
attached to the other. In the plant on the other hand 
we see a living being not only growing, but daily producing 
new organs which had not previously existed. In this 
ease therefore interchange of conceptions of simultaneous 
cohesion and of successive sequence became possible. 
The conception of simultaneous metamorphosis, in its 
broader sense, is the foundation of all comparative 
anatomy, and the conception of successive metamorphosis 
commonly observed in the lives of insects and of many 



66 GOETHE 

other animals, is in the same way the foundation of every 
hypothesis of evolution, and by the combination of 
these two conceptions we are able to develop a new idea : 
that idea it is that Goethe brings forward under the title 
of "metamorphosis of plants." He then goes on to apply 
this idea drawn from plant life to organic, nature as a 
whole, although he is never able to put tin: case so clearly 
as in plants, for reasons which you now understand. 
Nevertheless a closer investigation will convince you 
that in Goethe's doctrine the umalgamation of the 
conceptions of simultaneity and sequence is really to be 
found everywhere. " Tin* origin of the skull out of the 
vertebra was revealed to me/* writes Goethe, but after 
all what does that mean ? Goethe is not talking of 
"analogy/* but of "origin." Wo may, however, with 
full certainty assert that the existence of a chnrda fowl is 
and of a vertebral column, presupposes a brain suid a 
skull ; in an organism the various parts reciprocally 
condition cue another; it is not out of a transformation 
of the tail that the head comes into existence. Of origin, 
therefore, in the true meaning <f the won I as implying 
sequence, there can be no question. On tin* other hand 
"simultaneous origin conveys no conceivable idea. 
The skull cannot trace its existence to vertebra* which 
are vertebrae, and so it becomes necessary to substitute 
the word were* for which* however, I should I** unable 
to find the slightest justification either in the develop- 
ment of the individual or in any admit led derivation 
from other forms, since every progressive differentiation 
of the vertobne, could only go hand in band with an 
exactly corresponding higher development of the brain 
vesicles and of the skull which envelops them, Htw w 
have a crux* and Ooethe himsdf admit*. M we* keep 
wandering round and round in the field of the tnctmt 
prehfcmible and imftpeakaMe,"** 
This hold* good of his own idea of meUmnrplu>*ta No 



GOETHE 67 

scientific fact, no philosophic observation, is expressed 
by it ; and yet in spite of this it possesses an imperishable 
value, for the reason that it moves on the mathematically 
correct boundary-line between experience and idea, be- 
tween analysis and synthesis. We men are not only en- 
dowed with two eyes side by side, we have also two eyes 
behind one another ; but it rarely happens that the visual 
axes of these two pairs of eyes exactly correspond, so that 
the ray that comes from without falls through the outer 
eye upon the inner eye in such a manner as to put reason 
in direct communication with the empirical world. It is 
only when the two halves of our nature meet exactly 
upon the boundary-line that it takes place, and that 
only with the swiftness of lightning, where as soon as the 
one or the other eye, the inner or the outer, wishes more 
exactly to fix the image seen, it at once moves in the 
corresponding direction* Whoso, then, like Goethe, 
makes the annual plants the starting-point of his com- 
parative observations of organic beings, has the advantage 
of having directed his gaze right through from without 
to within and from within to without, by which he will 
have been taught to attempt the same method elsewhere. 
This is why Goethe, later on in 1820, in his investigations 
into the formation and transformation of organic natures, 
tells us that "the method which he followed in his 
botanical studies had always served as a trusty guide/' 69 
For in these days of a barbarous empiricism it c^n never 
be often enough repeated that a reciprocal amalgamation 
of the ideas of unity and plurality, sequence and simul- 
taneity, occurs in reality everywhere and without excep- 
tion in all our comparative observations of organic 
forms; they are made up of idea and experience in 
combination : to ignore that is either to founder with 
the admirable, but in philosophy poorly equipped, 
Darwin deeper and deeper into the marsh of empiricism, 
or to soar upon a winged Rosinante with that Don Quixote 



68 GOETHE 

of modern science, the fantastic Ernst iLitrkrl, into (In* 
region of the densest mountain mihts when* hr look* 
upon his own wraith in the li#ht of a new revelation, 

Hero we see what Goethe owed to Sohillrr. (loHhv h,v 
tolcl us later with what " unconscious simplicity " \w \v,r 
wont to philosophise until Schiller ami Kiwi rnlu;hmv I 
him. 70 Ho was deep in aimless struggles OV*T the f : * 
Pfl&nxe (the primitive plant) ami the Vrtiw (pinnitiV'- 
animal) : his standard for the significant r of (ratlin;,: 
anatomical facts was so poor that he was capable* << 
writing, "a leaf that absorb* moisture i"> *Mllrl a 
root." 71 Then came Srhillcr and roused him nut of hv 
uncritical slumbers. A year and a half alter that w**<tw;, 
Goethe was already aware that the lf primitive 
for which he had been necking " was no rluUI 
senses, but of the mind/* 7 * He wcmW fhrn no lifiuxi 
have been able to exclaim sarcastically u* S'hHU*t 4 ** J 
am very glacl to have ideas which I ran M^ ( with wv 
eyes/* for he would have to say, " \vith my Ymnd\ f*w, M 
and that was jnst what ^hitler inrant* A f k w \i*4?% 
later (ioetho says that the {>rpf!a)i,w, th* + 
is transcendental, ami says *{ the f-VWrr, th* 
animal, " that, after all, is nc more ttom th 
or idea of an animal/ 1 or cist* he spraks of I|IM 
primitive bodies, and is carrfitl to a<!4< '* irah^* UK 
and it loses its value/' Five-ami twmfv yr^r> 
Goctho wrott* the little chapter mi IfaknbfH uwl /*>#/ 
11 Reflection *uulSti!>niissi<in/* wliich I *>!tott^lv **Ivi^ 
to read over and over again. In f hr*** iw< 
clearly pointn nut tlu* rus* of th* 

confined in span* and limi. Tlw-n hr |*f^> >n, " fh.il 
why in tlu* idea sitnlt;uu*ity ami sun 1 ,*-* 
are closely boiincl up tngHiirr* whilu* 
experu*nr;t\ on thc^ mntrary* thiry 4ti? t!w;tv* krpt 
You can now undctst.uti! 



GOETHE 69 

can apply them to the concrete conceptions which you 
have gathered from plant life, but which unfortunately 
Goethe has not named in the passage quoted. You can 
also understand Goethe when he adds, "A natural 
operation which idea represents to our minds as being at 
the same time consecutive and simultaneous seems to 
drive us into a state of something like madness." In 
fact thevoad which Goethe pointed out in his doctrine 
of metamorphosis is a dangerous road which should not 
be followed without critical caution. For if we look upon 
our ideas as being experience, that road will lead us into 
the condition of madness in which our modern biology has 
enmeshed itself, and which threatens utterly to extinguish 
the power of independent observation ; whereas, on the 
contrary, if we draw ideas from our experience, we shall 
be following a road which will lead us into that world of 
the eye of which Goethe was the herald, and the im- 
portance of which for the future of culture no human 
being is yet capable of estimating. 



Let us go back to Kant. Although we may seem to 
have wandered far afield we have yet reached a point 
where in the metamorphosis of plants Goethe reaches 
out his hand to meet that of Kant. I am sure, moreover, 
tb&t there are many of Kant's views that you will 
Uaderstand much better, now that you have reached 
fctto through Goethe, than if you had attempted to 
.follow him along the road of abstract conceptions. 
CSoethe, insensibly, and while simply giving homogeneity 
and unity to the masses of forms which his eye detected, 
tas led us into the depths of Kant's philosophy. 

Itt the Critique of Pure Reason Kant goes back to 
Plato, in order, as he says, to re-introduce the word idea 
& i$s " original sense/' What this original meaning was 
fcs tacfo$ to express in the following way : " Ideas according 



70 GOETHE 

to Plato are prototypes of things themselves, and not 
mere keys to possible experiences/' This does away 
with our modern weakly interpretation of the word as 
almost synonymous with "thought"; an idea is no 
mechanical help, no intellectual scheme for the more 
convenient collection of experiences, but an idea is an 
image, and, as you will learn from our later lectures, 
" a creative fact. A vegetable, an animal, the regular 
ordering of the structure of the universe, presumably 
therefore also the complete laws of nature, show clearly 
that they are only possible in consonance with ideas " 
(R.V. 369 1). You see how all this is based upon per- 
ception, and how closely akin this method of thinking is 
to that of Goethe, which was for ever hunting for proto- 
types for that established order which it had discovered 
in the vegetable and animal kingdoms. But remember 
that Kant's eye is by no means directed outwards, but 
altogether inwards ; he analyses everything which forces 
itself upon his intellect exactly as he did Westminster 
Bridge, and takes to pieces the several component parts 
just as he does when the impression of the star-studded 
heaven strikes his soul. Not for a moment, therefore, do 
the notions of Idea and Experience correspond, as was the 
case with Goethe, to the prejudice of clear recognition. 
On the contrary, Kant's whole philosophy in its origin as 
in its aim springs from the perception that our human 
experience, of which to this day many men untrained, 
or wrongly trained, in philosophy speak as something 
simple and palpable, is in reality a very complex pro- 
ceeding, and that the formation of ideas is the result of a 
tendency which is certainly inevitable, but at the same 
time dangerous. It was to the disentanglement of these 
conditions, to the so-called critique of recognition, that 
Kant devoted the greatest part of his life. A first result 
of his analysis runs as follows : it is true that experience 
is rooted in the impressions of our senses, but beyond 



GOETHE 71 

that it stands in need of understanding, since no experi- 
ence can have any existence without the combination 
into unities of our innumerable observations ; this 
combination must manifestly take place according to 
laws which exist within ourselves, not outside of our- 
selves : 73 without understanding it would be impossible 
for me to reduce the endless multiplicity of experiences 
to fixed, definite " things/' and at the same time to 
discriminate between them. 74 Still less should I be able 
to unite two different phenomena like " caterpillar " and 
" butterfly," and to assert that the one is a transformation 
of the other. 

So much as a first guide to what is meant by experience. 
A second important result of Kant's bears upon ideas, 
and establishes the fact that ideas never fully grasp the 
true value of a phenomenon, but go no further than 
formulating the particular view that our thoughts take 
of it. Our understanding deals with the perception of 
things, our reason, as the parent of ideas, with the under- 
standing which fixes and limits those things. " If then 
pure reason also deals with phenomena," says Kant, 
" it still stands in nc> direct relation to them and to the 
perception of them, but only has to do with the under- 
standing and its judgments " (R.V. 363). Every single 
word here is of pure gold. Ideas do indeed " deal with 
phenomena," that is to say they are called into being by 
objects perceived, and aim at a renewed perception of 
them ; yet they are not directly in relation with the 
perceptions by means of which we attained a knowledge 
of these objects, but with our understanding and its 
judgments, that is to say with what we human beings 
think of them. In short, the range of the idea is deter- 
mined by the limits of human powers. You have but to 
consider Goethe's doctrine of the Metamorphosis of 
Plants, and you will be in a position thoroughly to under- 
stand the general meaning of this assertion without any 



73 GOETHE 

deeper initiation into Kant's philosophy. For it is certain 
that Goethe's idea had an objective foundation, formed 
upon the observation of thousands of plants : but it is 
even as certain that his idea is concerned with them not 
indirectly but directly. " I do not know how I can dis- 
entangle myself," wrote Goethe, as you will remember, 
from Padua : he wishes to disentangle himself, his 
thoughts, his thoughts about things, not the things 
themselves. Long and passionately were " the under- 
standing and its judgments " at work before the idea of 
the transformation of lateral organs, or indeed possibly 
of the whole united organs of plants, revealed itself to 
the reasoning power which was directed upon them out 
of one form, a form which no human eye had ever seen, 
and which Goethe only called a leaf for want of a generic 
term "by which to describe au organ capable of such 
various transformations/' 75 No sensible man will deny 
that this idea is an image and not an experience, and 
even the most unphilosophical man in the world must 
see and admit that this image relates not directly to the 
objects perceived, but to the verdict pronounced upon 
them by the human understanding and thought. Goethe's 
assumed " primitive organ " is so little a matter of per- 
ception, that we have not even a word applicable to it, 
but when Goethe lets fall the expression " great abstract 
unity," 70 we feel that the descriptive word " leaf " 
better meets the case ; for an idea must really be an 
image serving to help us to a clear comprehension of our 
perceptions, not a logical conclusion, and equally not an 
abstract conception. An idea is productive, creative, it 
is the servant of that power of imagination of which 
Kant says that it must not run into fanaticism, but must 
" invent under the strict supervision of Reason " (R,V. 
798), and even if the outer eye should fail to see these 
invented forms, and consequently the understanding 
should only name them clumsily and tentatively, that is 



GOETHE 73 

to say, by symbols, their essence is none the less per- 
ceptibility. If Goethe had written in his notebook, 
" Hypothesis : everything in plant life is abstract unity/* 
he would have rendered us and himself scant service ; 
whereas the words, " Hypothesis ; everything is leaf " 
(see page 64), have the value of a permanent enrichment 
of the human world of conceptions. The idea, then, 
although purely a product of human thought, is derived 
from perception, and its final goal is once more percep- 
tion. How clear is its value has been shown by Kant in 
a noble image, for the understanding of which I must 
remind you of the following elementary fact in optics. 

Think of a bi-convex lens such as you have in the best 
magnifying glass. Such a lens has the following peculi- 
arity, a certain point marked X is called its focus, at 
which distant rays of light are collected and generate 
heat. 

I hold this lens before my eyes and look at an object 
through it, and if the object be beyond the point X, 
I shall see it with the utmost clearness, but inverted. If 
I move the object nearer, it is magnified, but less defined, 
and will suddenly disappear altogether; that happens 
when it reaches the point X. The first illustration shows 
you why. The rays go out parallel to one another, and 
consequently there is no point, however distant, where 
the eye can gather them together. Now if I proceed to 
move the object nearer so that it comes to lie between the 
point X and the lens, it immediately reappears, and no 
longer inverted, but upright, and if the lens is very 
convex, greatly magnified. Now whereas the previous 
image was a true image, an image which you saw where 
the object stood, the present image exists only as an 
imaginary phantasy of the brain. Indeed, there takes 
place an unconscious operation of thought, and in- 
voluntarily we refer every single point to one lying far 
away in the background. That is to say, we transfer the 



74 



GOETHE 



object to a spot where as a matter of fact it does not 
exist. This is especially conspicuous in concave mirrors 
which enable us to call up living apparitions in the 
empty air. If we construct this on purely optical prin- 




ciples, as we did before, you will see that we are claiming 
an imaginary focus for our given lens or mirror : the 
physicists call this the " Virtual Focus," and in Kant's 
day the expression in use was still the Latin focus imagin- 




arius, and that implies that in the contemplation of the 
image, we picture to our imagination a focus where in 
reality none exists. 
With the clear representation of these optical facts 



^^ 




before your eyes you are now in a position fully to 
appreciate the value of Kant's instructive illustration. 
He tells you in detail that ideas will never furnish you 
with " conceptions of special objects." You have seen 



GOETHE 75 

before that although metamorphosis may have given us 
the idea of one primitive organ in plant life, still it has 
not given us the conception of a certain object, but only 
an " abstract unity " on behalf of which we have to 
content ourselves with the symbol " leaf." Obviously, 
then, ideas do not possess what Kant calls a " constitu- 
tive " value, indeed they bring no concrete contribution 
to the true building up of knowledge, for which they 
have no more than a " regulative," in other words a 
directing importance. Now comes the illustration. 
" On the other hand, however, ideas have a pre-eminent 
and indispensably necessary regulative use, namely the 
directing of the understanding to a certain aim, in respect 
of which the lines of all its rules converge upon one point. 
Being no more than an idea, this point may be compared 
to a focus imaginarws, for it lies altogether beyond the 
bounds of all possible experience, so that our concrete 
notions concerning things do not in reality proceed from 
them, although they may seem to do so. Nevertheless 
this focus imaginarius is of real use, inasmuch as it serves 
for the attainment of the most perfect uniformity to- 
gether with a maximum of expansion. Out of this there 
springs a delusion as if these directing lines were the 
output of an object itself lying outside the field of em- 
pirically possible perception just as objects are seen 
behind the flat surface of the mirror : but this illusion, 
which we are able to prevent from exercising a deceptive 
power, is yet indispensably necessary if we wish, in addition 
to those objects which are before our eyes, also to see 
those which He far away behind our backs, that is to 
say, if we would train our understanding to extend beyond 
every empirical experience, and so to attain the utmost 
possible degree of expansion " (R.V. 672 $eq*). You see 
how sharply, and at the same time how clearly, Kant 
defines and limits the essence of idea ; and we under- 
stand him when he tells us of ideas that they " are not 



76 GOETHE 

drawn from nature," that is to say, our interrogation of 
nature is prompted by these ideas, and " our perception 
of nature is in our judgment deficient so long as it is 
inadequate to our pre-formed ideas " (R.V. 673). Ideas 
are thus seen to lie in the focus imaginarius, and it 
becomes clear that their distinctive feature must be that 
they " go beyond the bounds of possible experience " 
(R.V. 377). Certainly without experience we should not 
be able to lay hold of them : they are formed on a plane 
optically lying far behind experience, and therefore it is 
impossible that " any object furnished by experience 
should ever be in agreement with them." And so we 
arrive at the fundamental result : idea and experience 
can never correspond, at any rate never completely and 
lastingly. 

All this seems to me quite clear. And when Kant 
says, " all human intuition begins with perception, 
follows on to comprehension, and ends in ideas " (R.V* 
730), we can, as it were, see his meaning with our eyes 
long before we have plunged into the labyrinth of the 
Reine Vernunft (Pure Reason), and you may take my 
word for it that this appreciation of his meaning is 
absolutely correct. You must only hold fast to the 
image of the focus imaginarius a true Kantian image, 
and to the example of the metamorphosis of plants a 
true Goethian example. The perceptions,^-in other 
words, the experience are the numbers of plants that 
are under observation : purely scientific comparative 
anatomy, whether consisting in practical study under 
the microscope, such as that of Kaspar Fr. Wolff, or in 
the collection of double carnations as Goethe collected 
them, means work with comprehensions and judgments : 
these accumulate enormously, their numbers fill us with 
despair. We do i*ot see our way out " I do not see how 
I can disentangle myself " ; we take refuge in experi- 
ence : at a point nearer than the focus of our eye's lens 



GOETHE 77 

the material image fades away, while an imaginary one, 
greatly magnified, takes its place, and now in the distant 
background of the focus imaginarius we see an idea, and 
that furnishes our understanding with the guide to a 
certain goal, and at one and the same time lends to its 
endeavours " a maximum of uniformity combined with 
a maximum of expansion." Those are the three steps : 
experience, comprehension, idea. 77 

The culminating point of the Critique of Pure Reason 
is this sentence : "all human recognition begins with 
perceptions, leads thence to comprehension, and ends 
with ideas." It introduces the last section of the 
" elementary instruction " : it ends the main work : the 
Methoden Lehre, or doctrine of method which follows, 
making hardly one -fifth of the book, is as it were 
only an appendix, just as at the end of a work on the 
anatomy and physiology of plants you will fiiid a sketch 
of their systematic classification. I do not wish to lead 
you into the mistake of supposing that these observations 
of ours will render you at one bound capable of under- 
standing Kant's metaphysics, or of considering your- 
selves as above the necessity of laborious study : yet 
you must surely feel that the practical understanding of 
the way in which this man " saw," must furnish an in- 
comparable help to such a study, and you will find this 
to be more and more justified at every step that we shall 
take ; and I cannot but call your attention to the fact 
that almost all the misunderstanding of Kant is rooted 
in the underestimation, if not int the entire neglect, of the 
perceptive element in his method of thinking. The 
special, predominant power of imagination which we 
have seen to be so significant of Kant's intellect, is at 
the same time characteristic of his philosophy, which is 
something far more concrete and tangible than people 
usually give him credit for, and which to be understood 
must, if I may say so, be seized quite as much by the eye 



78 GOETHE 

as by abstract ratiocination. It is true that the man 
shuts'his eyes to the outside world, and so the figures of 
which he makes use often lack brilliancy, though, as you 
have seen by the focus imaginarius, they are never wanting 
in sharpness ; but, in spite of all, his investigation of the 
soul is no logical ratiocination, no juggling with words, 
as he more than once contemptuously says: this is, 
indeed, true perception. It was undoubtedly this fact 
which attracted Goethe to him, and led to the saying that 
to read a page of Kant was like entering a brilliantly 
lighted room (G. 9, 173). But our professional meta- 
physicians, with the exception of a few men in whom a 
reaction is beginning to take place, have remained mere 
quibblers : our schoolmen still rule the roast in every 
camp, and not least where there is a semblance of con- 
nection with physics, experimental psychology, statistics, 
etc. : and so it comes to pass that we find a vast difference 
between Kant's methods of thought and almost every- 
thing that we meet with under the name of philosophy. 
I am bound to call your attention to this at once, and I 
can do so without going beyond the limits of our subject ; 
on the contrary, it will enable you to appreciate the gulf 
which separates the perceptive from the abstract method. 
Like their forerunners in the Middle Ages our modern 
philosophers revel in definition : and yet there is no 
greater mistake than to assume, from a logical point of 
view, that the sharper a definition is the better it is, and 
the more value it possesses. This does not even hold 
good in mathematics. For a definition in mathematics 
is either an arbitrary suppression of perception in favour 
of a practically applicable construction such, for in- 
stance, as " a point is that which has neither parts nor 
magnitude," or, " a line is that which has length without 
breadth/' or else it means nothing more than a con- 
vention as to the technical expressions to be adapted to a 
figure with which our power of perception has made us 



GOETHE 79 

familiar from the outset, as, for example, what we are 
to understand by the " centre " and " diameter " of a 
circle. In Louis Couturat's De Vinfini mathematique (1896) , 
a work of decisive scientific importance, we read, Toutes 
les definitions mathematiques sont purement nominates, et 
par suite presupposent toujours le concept qu'elles ont I' air 
de construire (p. 342). And if we go a step further we 
find Pascal telling us that geometry is incapable of de- 
fining any single object with which it deals, such as motion, 
numbers, space (De r esprit geometrique, sect. i). Thus 
even in mathematics it is practical applicability that 
alone counts. As regards nature, however, the more a 
definition is considered, the more we find that it relates 
exclusively to a word and not to a thing. For instance, 
a leaf is a thing which every man knows by perception ; 
try to define it and you will be running your head against 
mighty difficulties. Claude Bernard, one of the most 
important empirical investigators of the last century, 
affirms that : On ne saurait rien definir dans les sciences 
de la nature ; toute tentative de definition ne traduit qu'une 
simple hypothese. And in another place he says, dans 
toute science les definitions sont illusoires.'** Botanists 
have learnt this to their cost. Under the influence of 
Goethe's doctrine of metamorphosis they tried to get 
out of the difficulty with " the leaf in its transcendental 
sense " ; the attempt led to nothing but confusion. 79 
Then when the word leaf would no longer serve their 
purpose, they took refuge behind the word phyllom. 
The ancient languages are continually working wonders 
for us : the primitive Germanic root bid means blossom 
as well as leaf, and shows how our ancestors of old fore- 
stalled their great son; yet the substantive phyllom, 
derived from the Greek word for leaf, and conveying no 
meaning to our living ears, gave rise to more and more 
juggling with words. Then the artists in definition set 
t9 work, and with the help pf the cleverly invented 



8o GOETHE 

phyllom soon set up a very plausible classification, 
according to which there were to be Phyllophytes (leaf 
plants) and Thallophytes (leafless plants), and the latter 
were to include the algae, fungi, and lichens. It certainly 
was always difficult for the average man to understand 
why the algae were to have no leaves, and now that the 
material for observation has assumed such gigantic 
proportions and has been subjected to more accurate 
investigation, the untenability of the definition, however 
greatly it may be extended, is fully demonstrated. To 
be slire we still speak of thallophytes, because it is a word 
of practical utility, and because our actual knowledge of 
algae, fungi, and lichens in no way depends upon a name : 
still, if you look up Goebel's Grundzuge der Systematik 
(Fundamental Features of Systematization), you will 
read that " we can apply the conceptions of leaf and stem 
in their case as well as in that of the higher plants/' 80 
If we wished to set up a reaction, and to limit the arti- 
ficial expression phyllom in the strictest possible way, it 
would render us no further service, for it would then 
afford little material for observation, while it would 
separate by main force where no separation exists ; in 
short, it would become a mere word ; if we take the other 
alternative and keep on extending its signification it 
must lose all informative value, gaining indeed a wealth 
df material, but beggarly poor in conceptions, and so 
again a mere word. If the phyllom-less plants are also 
to possess phylloms like the others, then we had better 
turn our attention to other things. Definitions, as you 
see, far from possessing the importance of foundation 
and corner stones in the observation of nature, as the 
philosophers would have us believe, aie simply technical 
means of mutual understanding which, if they axe to 
have any value, must be taken in such a manner as to 
have a rather vague or, if you prefer to call it so, an 
elastic application to the subject under observation. 



GOETHE 81 

Of course if a system is purely mental, your philosopher 
may go on spinning definitions as merrily and as keenly 
as he pleases ; but the net result will be nothing more 
than a great calculation in algebra where, if all goes well, 
everything may be accurately correct even though the 
letters a and &, % and y, should still remain letters and 
not concrete values. This is what Kant calls " building 
houses of cards and chatter." On the contrary, in any 
truly scientific system of philosophy based upon facts it 
is entirely contrary to reason to expect that the same 
expression should bear exactly the same logical meaning 
in every connection in which it may be found. What 
never changes is the point of view itself ; but the muta- 
bility of definition shows clearly that we have to deal 
with a living power of intuition, and with a nature which 
defies all adequate comprehension, in contradistinction 
to logical and arbitrary lectures from professorial chairs. 
Kant rightly observes, " Philosophy-mongering would 
be in a sad plight if it were unable to deal with an idea 
until it should have been defined/ 1 and he confesses to 
the following principle to which I wish to call your 
attention at once at the beginning of our work in common, 
" In philosophy definition, as conveying deliberately 
measured lucidity, must be the end rather than the 
beginning of a work." 8X 

I have inserted this observation in order to impress 
upon you the fact that Kant the thinker never strays 
beyond the bounds of a visible and tangible world, thus 
standing in sharp contrast to all the logic chopping of 
the schools : I wanted, moreover, at the outset of your 
studies to warn you against attaching too much importance 
to definitions, and against giving ear to objections raised 
by pedants on this score ; urging you on the contrary to 
trust to Kant's guidance, and to enjoy a clearer under- 
standing of him than you had expected to attain. " We 
can often speak with abundant and precise knowledge 

I. G 



82 GOETHE 

upon a subject without being able to explain it." This 
is Kant's answer to the philosophers who would fain 
have men enter upon the field of their systems through 
a gateway of the most abstract ideas. 82 We may then, 
with the help of concrete examples, discuss experience 
and idea without having attempted any precise logical 
definition of either. It might be philosopher-like, but 
it would be quite senseless and unscientific if we were to 
attempt to describe before we have seen, and to winnow 
before we have gleaned. In the course of these lectures 
we shall often return to experience and idea : I hope so 
to arrange matters that your knowledge may grow and 
grow until our present standpoint shall seem to you no 
more than the lowest rung of the ladder : yet true know- 
ledge, in contradistinction to mere learning, is a fact, 
and for facts we can only prepare ourselves by action : 
what is to bear fruit to-morrow must lie hidden in the 
mystery of to-day. Later on Plato and Kant will be your 
study, and in them you will find if not everything, at 
any rate a goodly store of what is needed for the " com- 
pletion of your work with exact lucidity/' 

Since we have been led into the question of the value 
of definitions, together with that of philosophy work- 
ing on logical and theoretical lines, I should like to 
add another point of view which is closely bound up with 
our present investigation into experience and idea. 

You have seen that Kant appeals to Plato in order to 
re-introduce the word " idea " in its old signification. 
He does this with a full sense of its importance, rejecting 
on the one hand the bungling emendations of this good 
old word, while on the other he is shy of " coining new 
words." Yet the use of the word " idea *' in Kant is 
based upon an analysis of the human intellect, for which 
the Greeks had not the smallest inclination. That is 
why idea in Plato and idea in Kant do not correspond, 
but rather act as two symbols pointing to the same 



GOETHE 83 

hardly expressible meaning. This will not become quite 
clear to you until we reach the lectures upon Plato and 
Kant. But there is one thing that you can understand 
at once, which is that Kant's conception of " idea " is so 
rich and so defined that he deems it necessary to dis- 
tinguish between ideas that belong rather to perception 
and those which belong rather to abstract thought : the 
former are the true " ideas," the latter he calls ratioci- 
nations (Vernunft Begriffe). But no sharp distinction is 
possible : the only important matter is to call attention to 
the directions in which the human intellect moves : it 
sometimes happens that Idea and Ratiocination, in accord- 
ance with the suggestion of the moment, can be placed 
in direct opposition to one another : at other times they 
may be so entirely synonymous that Kant sometimes 
makes use of the one word for the other, incurring no 
little abuse on that account. Wiseacres who look upon 
a single word as if it were a loose coat which they try 
to tailor into a tight fit with the scissors of hair-splitting 
definitions, reproach Kant with obscurity, inconsistency, 
and confusedness : he had no notion of definition, he 
contradicted his own definitions, etc,, and yet it is a 
simple case of perception. In the case of the idea of 
metamorphosis you have seen clearly how far that idea 
is at the same time capable and incapable of being per- 
ceived. At one time Goethe saw his Urpflanze (primitive 
plant) " with his eyes " : then it was idea : at another 
time he speaks of an " abstract entity/ 1 then it was a 
ratiocination. It sometimes happens that in the con- 
sideration of an idea our attention is specially claimed by 
what is abstract in it, and then it is just as important to 
distinguish between the ideal conceptions and the true 
conceptions (or ratiocinations, Verstancles Begriffe, as 
Kant calls them) as it is to separate the symbolical 
images which are the result of ideas, from objects seen in 
actual experience. It is therefore important to protect 



84 GOETHE 

the fact of the formation of ideas against misappre- 
hension and misuse, and to insure this it will be well to 
hoist a danger signal against both. Hence the definition, 
tf a conception which goes beyond the possibilities of 
experience is either an idea or a ratiocination." That a 
single word did not suffice was not because this princely 
intellect possessed less consistency and clearness than 
any first-class private tutor, but because it was no mere 
logical shadow, but the embodiment of an idea, a highly 
complex idea, which was at stake: and so two words 
were required to do what might have been the work of 
one, whether in world-wide expansion or imprisoned as 
in the grip of a vice, 

We have now made it clear, without any further need 
of discussion, that " the senses cannot furnish us with 
any object which shall correspond with the idea formed 
of it " (2 V. 383), and moreover that " in experience it is 
impossible to arrive at anything which exactly coincides 
with ideas." Goethe himself later on confessed in a 
happily inspired moment : " the idea cannot be repre- 
sented in experience, indeed it hardly admits of proof : 
if a man does not profess it no amount of ocular demon- 
stration will make him master of it." But there is one 
thing to which I must again draw your attention before 
we close the chapter on experience and idea for which 
the conversation between Schiller and Goethe has given 
such an opportune occasion. We must treat of a special 
contrast which exists between Kant and Goethe. 

Goethe believed himself to be so entirely wrapt up in 
the objective perception of nature, that until Schiller 
roused him up he was even unconscious that he possessed 
ideas. As a matter of fact, however, his conception of 
nature consisted, before the meeting with Schiller as well 
as after it, chiefly in the fact that he was actually domi- 
nated by ideas. It was the intense power of perception, 
and not the minutiae of experience, which constituted 



GOETHE 85 

his special gift and directed his aim. This is a subject as 
to which we are still not a little hazy. I have quoted 
Goethe's own words to the effect that his sight was not 
keen. It is true that as the occasion arose he would 
work with the microscope and even embark upon experi- 
ments upon the influence of coloured light upon the 
growth of plants, but he had no time for minute observa- 
tion which gave him no pleasure, and for which he had no 
special aptitude. On one occasion he confesses, " I had 
no sense of what is positive, but insisted upon everything 
being explained if not intelligibly, at any rate historically/' 
Only consider his discovery of the intermaxillary bone. 
The discovery was due to no patient work, but was 
simply a declaration of Goethe's from the very beginning 
that it must be there. He started from an idea, from 
the idea of uniformity in the structure of the skeleton of 
the vertebrate animal, and it turned out to be right. 
Yet every serious and capable naturalist will agree with 
me in the contention that the essence of modern science 
lies in the rejection of all such apodeictic prophecies, and 
that it only accepts as valid the decisions of experience. 
Goethe was a brilliant genius, but in spite of that he 
gave rise to no little confusion by his uncritical jumble 
of experience and idea, and by his not always happy 
play of imagination. For instance, Goethe's endeavour 
to refer the whole of the organs of plants to one idea 
" leaf," proved to be as incapable of being maintained 
as it was fruitless. It needed no less than five ideas, 
Thallome, Rhizome, Caulome, Phyllome, and Trichome, 
to be set up in order to shelter his metamorphosis and 
obtain from it some slight service to science, 8S The dogma 
that the framework of the skull is built up of vertebrae 
made confusion worse confounded; not that the idea 
might not be highly stimulating, but because it went 
ahead of observation which later on showed that one 
part of the cranium of vertebrate animals proceeds from 



86 GOETHE 

formations of the dermal skeleton, while another part 
corresponds with the branchial arches, so that the 
analogy with the vertebrae can at most apply only to a 
portion and not to the whole of the skull. Moreover, the 
origin of this particular portion is so obscure that it is 
rather an academical question for Zoologists than a fact 
contributing to the advancement of science. 84 Goethe 
himself admitted later, " in my method of investigation, 
of knowledge, and of delight therein I am entirely 
dependent upon symbols/' 85 This is not a method for 
any one else to copy: it would shatter all science to shivers. 
With Goethe, indeed, the case is different. He is not deal- 
ing with science pure and simple, but with that world of 
the eye whose function it is to be to give a new form to 
the whole aggregate of barbaric knowledge in the interest 
of civilised culture. I shall return to this point in the 
next lecture. Kant, the man who was so chary of direct- 
ing his glance upon the world around him, and in whom 
one might in consequence presuppose a preference for 
the world of ideas, was far more jealous of the rights of 
experience, as opposed to idea, than Goethe. One of the 
most prominent results of Kant's analysis of human 
reason consists in the sharp distinction which he draws 
between experience and idea, and in the proof that " in 
the consideration of nature experience arms us with the 
rule and is the source from which truth springs" (R.V, 
375). Let there be no misunderstanding as to this. The 
high importance which Kant attaches to practical ideas 
for the life of man, cannot be altogether unknown to you : 
according to him, " they are always in the highest degree 
fruitful, and indispensably necessary so far as real 
actions are concerned" (R.V. 385), We see by the 
example of the focus imaginarius, alluded to above, how 
indispensable he holds theoretical ideas to be for science, 
and in his Critique of Pure Reason, and his Critique of 
the Power of Judgment, we are led to important expositions 



GOETHE 87 

of the law according to which we men set up genera and 
species, of the meaning of teleology, of the finite and 
infinite nature of the Cosmos, etc. There can be no 
question of any misunderstanding or disparagement of 
ideas. No one would have been more pleased than Kant 
to subscribe to Couturat's dictum, Les idees sont lefonde- 
ment meme de la realite** " ideas are the very foundation 
of reality." What really constitutes the contrast between 
Kant and Goethe is that Kant always without reserve 
recognised the inexorable power of concrete facts, and 
therefore subjected ideas to a far keener analysis than 
Goethe did, who although in theory after the conversa- 
tion with Schiller he recognised his mistake, nevertheless 
remained to the end of his life inclined to reckon as natural 
experiences ideas which he had not even clearly formu- 
lated. If we may trust Eckermann's memory, Goethe 
said, as late as 1827 : " I discovered the law of meta- 
morphosis " (G. i, 2, 27). And he continued to look 
upon the indescribable and unthinkable idea of meta- 
morphosis as an analogy to those laws of motion which 
have been arrived at by accurate observation ; he never 
rightly understood the difference between his method 
and that of exact science. 87 Kant's confession of faith, 
on the contrary, was " outside of experience no evidence 
of truth is to be found " ; that is at once the confession 
of all exact science, and the banner under which free men 
go out to war against Obscurantism, against Dogmatism, 
against Superstition. In the whole history of the world 
down to the present day no philosopher has represented 
the inalienable rights of experience with such assurance 
and so convincingly as Kant. No wonder the more 
important naturalists side with him. Not only has he 
maintained our right to open our eyes, and proved with 
the sternness of a philosopher that the walls which are 
for ever being raised in the name of morality and religion 
against freedom of research and freedom of opinion, are 



88 GOETHE 

really bulwarks of prehistoric dishonesty and heathenism 
incarnate, but he has laid the greatest weight upon 
warning us against enemies hidden in the twists and 
turns of our own brains. That is the end and aim of 
all his labours. Idea and theory and system are all to 
be enlisted, but as mediators and helpers, not as founders 
and rulers. Criticism such as this necessarily leads to a 
series of limitations and to the mapping out of the 
frontier lines of experience. Far be it from us to mistake 
our ideas and hypotheses and theories for experience, 
not even when we see and are compelled to admit that 
no experience would be possible without them. In this 
way the conception of experience is made clearer, though 
at the same time its boundaries are more and more closely 
drawn. Experience is stripped of the impertinent fribble 
of impotent materialists, and taught that so far from 
leading to anything and being a sort of divinity, it is 
nothing but the handmaid of a despotic and creative 
intellect, of " the magician king in the Tower." But 
even the King must learn modesty; for it is only in 
experience purified in this manner that the " fountain of 
truth " gushes forth, that fountain which alone " supplies 
the evidence of truth," and " furnishes the law of 
truth/ 1 

The gist and trend of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason 
would justify us in entitling it the preparatory school of 
pure experience. 

The contrast between Goethe and Kant is patent. But 
if I have been unable to avoid trenching upon the field 
of theory, I must ask you to concentrate your thoughts 
to-day upon the innate and purely personal method of 
perception. This is the one thing that is of first and 
constant importance ; every system contains a multitude 
of impersonal elements, and might be differently formu- 
lated in every succeeding century* But if we were merely 
to lay stress upon what differentiates the two men, we 



GOETHE 89 

should only have achieved half of our task, and should 
have acquired nothing more than one of those popular flat 
pictures, with everything either to the right or to the left, 
which to me are hateful : in order to obtain a solid image 
the third dimension is needed, that of depth. The dis- 
tinguishing difference to be observed in the two men is 
this, that however much they may have been appar- 
ently opposites in their natural facilities and in what 
they achieved, they were none the less aiming at the 
same goal, and that goal was the encouragement of per- 
ception as against the claims of abstract logical thought. 
Goethe strives to promote perception by insisting upon 
the value of idea, which, as he says in one passage, " un- 
locks the inner sense of the observer." 88 Kant promotes 
perception by laying stress upon experience, and by an 
exact criticism of the very complicated conception which 
we call experience. 

This I think will have given you an exact appreciation, 
far better than the worthy Eckermann ever possessed, of 
what Goethe meant when he uttered the memorable 
words, " Instinctively I followed the same road as Kant/' 
We only begin to understand any idea, when we recognise 
that there is more in it than can be expressed in words. 
Judgments are just as much symbols as words when they 
refer to something living. It is impossible to understand 
the meaning of " I followed the same road as Kant," 89 
until we see that Goethe might, at the very same 
moment, have said to some other man, " I followed a 
different road from Kant's." True wisdom can never 
be imparted: the most that can be done is to lead 
up to it* 

For the purposes of this lecture I will now sum up the 
result of our comparative study of these two conceptions 
of idea and experience in the following way! an eye 
that is always receiving images, is at the same time like 
a mirror always reflecting them, and gathers its own 



90 GOETHE 

ideas in the garden of nature in the full confidence that 
they grew there. That was the case with Goethe : 

O lass sie walten, 
Die unvergleichlichen Gestalten, 
Wie sie dorthin mem Auge schickt. * 

No such mistake found a place in Kant's carefully 
locked brain : no light from without could blind him, and 
so he was able to draw a fine distinction between the 
outer world and the inner world, defining in the workings 
of the human intellect how much is foreign and how much 
is inborn, discriminating in comprehensible thought 
between matter and form. Unless Kant had possessed 
the special and phenomenal power of conception to which 
I called attention at the beginning of the lecture his 
equipment would have been inadequate : in order to 
take a world with its problems. into consideration, a man 
must be able to lay claim to the possession of that world 
as his own : but had Kant been as completely wrapped up 
in nature as was Goethe, he would never have succeeded 
in perfecting that series of judgments to which mankind 
will always be compelled to revert in the interests of true 
science and true religion. 

But beyond this abstract conclusion there is a moral 
which I would fain draw out of these considerations of 
ours ; and that moral is, if we give ourselves up to 
nature exclusively we lose ourselves in her. No one 
knew that better than Goethe. There is a passage in 
which he says, " the idea of metamorphosis is a very 
lofty, but at the same time a very dangerous gift from 
above. It leads to that which is without form, destroying 
and disintegrating knowledge." 90 In spite of this, even 
in his old age he was constantly relapsing into the 
mysticism of his youth. There can be no doubt that 
mysticism as a mental condition, and as a presentiment 

* O let them prevail, these incomparable forms, seen as my eye 
transmitted them. 



GOETHE 91 

of transcendental worlds beyond our ken, is an intellectual 
phenomenon worthy of respect : sometimes it has even 
pointed the way to liberation from the chains of Dogma ; 
in spite of that, as a mental disposition, it is to be held 
in abomination : the most brilliant intellect becomes 
childish when it strikes ofi on this wrong tack. Here 
again the great Kant is our deliverer for all time ; nothing 
but true criticism such as he taught can steer us clear. 
Unhappily, in spite of the purifying influence of Kant, 
Goethe never was able to hold fast to the critical position 
for any length of time. He mourns over his fate as having 
been " born to the school of identity/' 91 and a few years 
before his death he writes the regrettable words, " Matter 
can never exist without mind, nor mind without matter/' 02 
and the man who wrote this was the same man who a few 
years earlier admitted that the mere idea of transforma- 
tion was dangerous and fatal to knowledge. Dualism is 
no theory, but a fact. It would no doubt be very pretty 
if we men instead of having two legs had only one : but as 
a matter of fact we have two, and are compelled to step 
out with the right and the left foot in turns, if we wish 
to go forward. All monism, be it what it may, leads in 
the end to a Buddhistic contemplation of the navel. If 
subject and object be one and the same, there is an end 
of all activity, whether of science or of soul. 

Goethe's genius naturally saved him from such a ship- 
wreck as this. This noble man was rich in those contra- 
dictions in which true greatness reveals itself, and of 
which it is as prodigal as its mother nature. Of that you. 
have just had plenty of evidence. Still more was he 
inspired when, instead of proclaiming his belief in a flat 
identity, he uttered the immortal saying, " where object 
ancl subject are in contact, there is life/* EvenlEfioiigli 
now and again he maintained that his " thinking was per- 
ception " those are his very words " and was actually 
fused with the objects perceived/' 98 there were other 



92 GOETHE 

moments when he admitted that man must act as a law- 
giver, 94 even in the presence of nature, and that is 
manifestly the very opposite of "fusion"; indeed, 
upon one occasion he said that " all attempts to solve 
the problems of nature, are really only the conflicts of the 
power of thought with perception." 95 The revelation of 
the essence of this inevitable conflict, was precisely what 
constituted the life-work of Kant. Even those least 
familiar with philosophical disputes can have no difficulty 
in understanding on the one hand the advantage of 
determining by analysis what part the " lawgiving " 
thought of man plays in purely objective perception, 
and on the other of showing how far perception in the 
first instance furnishes thought with material, and so 
points the way for the " lawgiver." There is no other 
possible way of arriving at a clear distinction between 
experience and idea. 

To the best of my ability I have now in the main 
accomplished the task which I set myself in this first 
lecture. Yet I must not. conclude without briefly direct- 
ing your attention to another field of perception with 
which I shall deal more fully in my next discourse : it 
is one in which the comparison between Goethe and Kant 
is so instructive, and such a valuable supplement to the 
knowledge that we have already gained, that it cannot 
be passed over in silence to-day. I am speaking of 
mathematics. 

The science of mathematics, to borrow a saying of 
Goethe's, is that form of perception which is altogether 
and exclusively the monopoly of the " lawgiving " 
thought of man. Across that bridge of the eye to 
which I alluded at the beginning of my lecture there 
come images from without which man is not capable of 
inventing, and of which we are only aware when nature 
presents them to us ; but, in the Magician King's 
castle there is also a world of forms, forms which 



GOETHE 93 

have no special relation to this or that real entity, and 
yet related to everything or nothing, rods and cranes and 
edges and angles, forms of which outside nature knows 
nothing, or at any rate knew nothing until this world 
of human phantoms had come into tangible existence 
in the shape of machines. 

" They see thee not for they see nought but phantoms/' 
says Mephistopheles of the " Mothers " ; these mothers 
are our mothers, the mothers of the human race : it 
was from them that we inherited our grey brain-substance, 
and this is the Archimedean point, whence, as it were 
voutside of nature, we spread over the Cosmos the net of 
mathematics, mathematics out of which rise order, 
abstract form, disruption, self-mastery, lawgiving, to be 
embodied in human science. 

We shall have to go more closely into this hereafter. 
To-day we need do no more than determine the directly 
contradictory estimates formed by Goethe and Kant 
of this human invention called mathematics. Kant's 
declaration of faith runs thus : " Pure mathematics 
afford the truest appreciation, and are at the same time 
the model of the highest certainty in every field of 
thought " (D. 12), and he not only admires but loves 
the science of mathematics to such a degree that he con- 
siders that " it stirs our feelings in a similar, or even more 
sublime, way than the accidental beauties of nature." 90 
Goethe, on the contrary, who has to admit that " division 
and addition did not lie in my nature,"* 7 was of opinion 
that " since the revival of mathematics, science has gone 
sadly astray/' 98 Goethe was not only without auy turn 
for mathematics, but he really showed very little under- 
standing of the essence and practical importance of the 
science : Kant himself was no arithmetician, though he 
had a pre-eminent aptitude for mathematical perception. 
Here it was Goethe whose eyes were closed, Kant whose 
eyes were open ; and these same open eyes of his enabled 



94 GOETHE 

him to succeed in rearing up a work of real genius, a 
construction for all time. We may no doubt affirm 
without exaggeration that Kant's hypothesis of the 
origin of the heavenly bodies, taken up forty years later 
by Laplace and carried out into greater detail with the 
help of calculation, was one of the eminent results of 
genius in the exercise of the human power of percep- 
tion. 

There is no need to enlarge upon what is a matter of 
common knowledge. You are acquainted with this 
hypothesis of an originally undifferentiated, chaotically 
nebular, primary mass of matter which owing to the attrac- 
tion and repulsion of atoms acquired circulation, by means 
of which a central body was formed, and around that 
again others were collected, until all or at any rate the 
greater number of the suns (for some of these are still in 
a nebular state) came into existence ; round the suns 
came their planets, and round the planets, rings, moons, 
asteroids, etc. Kant calls his hypothesis " an attempt 
to arrive at the mechanical origin of the whole structure 
of the universe," and this attempt was so brilliant that 
it still prevails in almost all theories both within and with- 
out the domain of exact science. I am, however, concerned 
to lay great stress upon the fact that we are not dealing 
here with a " theory " in the sense of the laws of motion 
set up by Newton and Descartes, but with a spontaneously 
creative hypothesis. Its perceptibility is so powerful 
and so convincing that even men of science sometimes 
overlook this fact, and so the whole essence of Kant's 
achievement is misunderstood. In truth, as the mathe- 
maticians teach us, it becomes daily more clear that 
the hypothesis in question, whether in the form given 
to it by Kant or later by Laplace, again by Hervg 
Faye, or recently by J. Mooser, cannot be absolutely 
maintained in aU its details, and never will be capable 
of actual proof. It is no theory, but an hypothesis : it 



GOETHE 95 

forces into its scheme irreducible elements in order to 
make the whole comprehensible : here and there, as in 
all hypotheses, either facts or calculations are treated 
very cavalierly. Lord Kelvin's calculation that if the 
whole earth had been originally made of solid steel it 
would by the velocity of its rotary motion have under- 
gone almost the same flattening at the poles as exists 
now, and which according to Kant is generally explained 
by the admission of a gaseous condition prior to its 
liquid condition, is among those things which have given 
rise to serious reflection upon the audacity of trying to 
make realities out of possibilities. Recently we have 
had a new hypothesis which is preferred by such eminent 
geologists and physiologists as Geikie, Nordenskjold, 
Ratzel, and others, according to which the heavenly 
bodies have arisen out of the combination of solid masses 
of dust and stones in cosmic space round special points 
of attraction. It is calculated that on an average about 
four and a half million hundredweight of meteorites fall 
in the course of a thousand years upon the surface of the 
earth out of interplanetary space. In an article in 
Petermann's Mitteilungen (1901, p. 217 seq.), Friedrich 
Ratzel comes to the conclusion that Kant's hypothesis 
is " not to be looked upon as the only, and in a certain 
sense, inevitable, hypothesis of the formation of the 
earth. Geography has in itself no ground for holding a 
primitive vapour and a consequent condition of fluid 
incandescence of the planet to be more probable than the 
aggregation of small heavenly bodies in various stages, 
out of the union of which, accompanied by heat, the 
earth and other heavenly bodies might have been started/' 
The consideration of such previously unsuspected possi- 
bilities deprives the nebular hypothesis of Kant and 
Laplace of all dogmatic value as truth, and gives it 
more importance than what it really is, namely an 
ingenious result of the human intellect legislating for and 



96 GOETHE 

dominating the whole notion of the universe with the 
freedom of a creator. That same analytical and construc- 
tive gift of imagination which you saw at work in the 
case of Westminster Bridge, here reaches boldly up to 
the stars and cries out, " Do but furnish me with matter, 
and out of it I will build you a world " (H. Vor.). 

This method of perception, and consequently also this 
method of thinking, is as unlike Goethe as possible, for he 
would have had no use for abstract matter conceived as 
set in motion in accordance with physical laws. 

Here let me impress upon your closest attention what 
follows. The results at which we have already arrived 
have taught us that little information is to be gained 
from the general glimpses of the character and intellect 
of a man : unless we follow up our analysis, we only feel 
the burthen of a new fact, without soaring upon the 
wings of a new revelation. The contrast between the 
two methods of perception, that of Kant and that of 
Goethe, which has been brought into prominence in the 
consideration of mathematics and schematic observation, 
is joined to an unexpected, apparently paradoxical and 
psychologically very instructive judgment. Kant's 
theoretical methods of thought are clearer than those of 
Goethe. This hypothesis of Kant's as to the mechanical 
origin of the world's structure is much more intelligible, 
and, as being the result of actual sight, much easier to 
explain, than Goethe's doctrine of metamorphosis : and 
for this reason : Kant reduces a concrete observation, the 
world of stars, to a scheme therefore equally to some- 
thing directly perceptible, to something geometrically 
perceptible; Goethe, on the contrary, searches for an, 
idea which perception has awakened in his reason, a 
symbol : the idea itself " transcends possible experience/ 1 
and the symbol, while borrowing something from the 
faculty of perception yet extends beyond it. The pure 
thinking in his consideration of nature remains within 



GOETHE 97 

the pale of possible perception, whereas the man who 
possesses the genius of observation attempts to sur- 
mount that pale. If the pure thinker adds perception 
to his thought, then his observation will be incon- 
trovertible, absolutely human, and I might say logical. 
If a man who possesses the genius of observation 
succeeds in attaining theoretical reflection, then he will 
have something to impart which, being beyond the scope 
of logic, can only be expressed by indications, and will 
become indistinct and often full of contradictions. This 
is why Kant's teaching is clearer and easier to grasp 
than that of Goethe. 

This much more is worthy of observation. The 
intellect which thinks mathematically and mechanically, 
that is to say, which takes its stand upon the idea of the 
" lawgiver," faces the incomprehensible universe with 
its tables of the law, and forces its scheme upon it, while 
the priest of the eye preaches blind submission to per- 
ception, that " quite peculiar method of investigation *' 
which Goethe calls " the interrogation of nature/' 99 
Instead of, like Kant, forcing the whole Cosmos within 
the human soul, this interrogation of nature takes man 
out of himself and throws him into the arms of nature. 
Here the road leads to the mystic union with nature, to 
the state of the superman, the state in which the strong 
man who possesses a sure foot and an eye that never 
grows giddy can reach the highest pinnacle. " If thou 
darest thus equipped to climb the last stage, give me thy 
hand and open thine eyes upon the wide field of nature." 
But it is a state in which those who in their mad audacity 
dare to venture unprepared, not reaching out their hands 
for the support of true genius, but trusting to the vain 
rhetorician or the mystical fanatic, must inevitably take 
the fatal plunge into the abyss. Where Scheme exists no 
such vital danger lurks. True it may easily turn in- 
significant men into machines ; but what of that ? In the 

I. H 



9 8 GOETHE 

hands of the more gifted it becomes " the pride of the 
human intellect," as Kant exclaims in a moment of 
characteristic inspiration (R.V. 492). With the confidence 
of indifference it extends or compresses and mutilates 
every living form, every phenomenon of nature, till they 
fit into the Procrustean bed of lawgiving, purely human, 
mathematical observation ; it creates vessels and organs 
for the increase of science which may become the common 
property of all mankind, even of the less gifted ; and in 
virtue of the great share of arbitrary power which man 
has added to it, it is easily understood, convincing, and 
rich in results. 

I have finished. I refrain from summing up the results 
at which we have arrived, all the more willingly inasmuch 
as we shall more than once be obliged to return to the 
same subjects in the next lecture. In the person of 
Leonardo da Vinci we shall have another man belonging 
to the world of the eye, whom we may place in contrast 
with Kant. It will, however, be seen that Leonardo 
differs from Goethe no less than Kant does : and so we 
shall arrive at making a distinction between eye and 
eye. We shall be startled to find Goethe as seen from 
Leonardo's point of view approach very near to Kant 
in regard to certain shortcomings of the eye and the 
dominant power of thought, and to find Leonardo the 
absolute artist, seen from Goethe's point of view, in 
certain important matters much more closely related 
to Kant than to the poet who was so rich in ideas, 
And so little by little the wealth and peculiar character- 
istics of Immanuel Kant will be unveiled before us, and 
by degrees we shall gain the power of penetrating into 
his thoughts. I hope that we have this day laid a good 
foundation for our further labours. We owe it to Kant 
to know no rest until he stands as a living personality 
before our eyes. 



LEONARDO 
CONCEPTION AND PERCEPTION 

WITH AN EXCURSUS UPON PHYSICAL OPTICS 
AND THE DOCTRINE OF COLOUR 



Our soul is composed of harmony, 
and harmony is never bred save 
in moments when the proportions 
of objects are seen or heard. 

Leonardo. 




LKONARDO DA VINCI 

Paintfd ly hhnsdj 
and engi'axwt ly Charles 



^ ^HAT 

I func 

I the 

JL in c 



LEONARDO 

Seeing is a passive as well as an active 
function is a maxim as old as Aristotle, But 
the difference between passivity and activity 
in different men repeats itself in the degree 
and the more delicate qualities of both. It must be our 
business to bring into relief those personal peculiarities 
of Kant's way of Seeing which differentiate him from 
other Seers. It is with this object in view that we resort 
to comparison. We desire ourselves to observe and See 
the most important of the Seers, in the profound con- 
viction that this will carry us further and to greater 
advantage than if we were to go into abstract theories 
about them, and hedge in their doctrines with finely 
pointed fences of definition. 

From our first comparison, that with Goethe, we have 
won a significant and lasting advantage* The intellectual 
individuality of Kant revealed itself in striking contrast 
to that of Goethe. In Kant we saw a peculiar quality of 
intuition developed to an absolutely astounding degree. 
We saw the power of appreciating mentally that which 
has been described: and that which is described is 
something which has been brought to our minds parcel- 
wise, or, to use the technical expression, analytically: 
for it is only by degrees that words can present a Whole, 
whereas the Eye first gives us a Whole, and. only by 
degrees separates it into Parts. Moreover, in Kant we 
fpund an important development of that method of 
perception which is projected from within to without, 
geometrically in accordance with formula, humanly 

IOZ 



102 LEONARDO 

speaking creative, namely the mathematical method. 
In Goethe, on the contrary, we found as a characteristic 
the insatiable hunger of the Eye, and in connection 
therewith the impulse to treat even matters of theory as 
something actually seen. In spite of this, inasmuch as 
the Doctrine of Metamorphosis had furnished us with a 
clear demonstration of the relationship between passivity 
and activity in Goethe's manner of Seeing, we recognised 
its harmony with Kant's mental vision and his analytical 
distinction between Experience and Idea. 

To-day I wish to carry this comparison with Goethe 
further, for it still contains a whole store of instruction. 
I hope to convince you that without the help of Kant we 
could hardly succeed in correctly grasping Goethe's 
view of nature, while at the same time no other man 
leads us so directly and patently to Kant, as does Goethe. 
This consideration, then, will give you a twofold advan- 
tage. Still, I wish to associate with these two men a 
third, another great artist. I hit upon my choice 
without any reference to chronology ; simply with the 
intention of avoiding the ever-present danger of allowing 
our lazy thoughts to crystallise, and of contenting our- 
selves with some idle phrase about the antagonism 
between art and philosophy. Unfortunately no lesser 
man than Schopenhauer has given encouragement to so 
stark a fallacy ; he is the most read of all philosophers, 
and in so far justly as he is by a long way the most read- 
able ; pity, that among his many perversities of thought, 
(I can find no other word for them,) there should be the 
asseveration that " Genius and a head for mathematics " 
should be contradictions. 1 It is not possible here to 
enter upon a refutation of this detestable asseveration, 
to which, in the very first place, the whole phenomenon 
of Hellenism would have to fall a sacrifice : it would be 
easy and entertaining to carry out such a refutation with 
no other help than that of Schopenhauer's own writings : 



LEONARDO 103 

but one feels almost ashamed to enter the lists against 
this much too clever man when one hears him in an 
important passage cite Alfieri as having been unable to 
master the fourth proposition of Euclid, and again 
bringing forward some unnamed French mathematician 
who, on reading through Racine's Iphigenie, shrugged 
his shoulders, and asked, " Qu'est-ce que cela prouve ? " 2 
If those are arguments then one might, with equal force, 
come to the conclusion that because a certain nineteenth- 
century poet at the age of forty, and in spite of living in 
the country, did not yet know that tadpoles turn into 
frogs, therefore no Poet is gifted with the power of 
observing nature. The mischief of such phrases, when 
they are presented with the seductive eloquence of a 
Schopenhauer, is that they are scattered far and wide, 
and establish themselves as dogmas, and so it comes to 
pass that to-day we find many men who because, like 
Alfieri, they are incapable of something, pose as men of 
genius, and who, not content with the fact that " the 
pride of the human intellect/' as Kant calls mathematics, 
is none of theirs, plume themselves upon their impotence. 
Nay more, these mental waifs who cannot even grasp the 
simple problem of the equilateral triangle, look down 
from the height of their superiority on the most important 
men if only they show any aptitude for mathematics, and 
catalogue them as second-rate goods. But we need not 
dwell upon, this, though it is difficult to prevent our 
wrath from blazing up over the impertinence of so 
fundamentally perverted a dogma. It is time for us to 
enter at once upon the heart of our subject. 8 

Schopenhauer's thesis affects genius ia general. Some- 
times, however, he propounds it in a narrower and 
therefore more plausible form : in this s&ise he writes, 
" Experience has proved that men of great genius in art 
have no aptitude for mathematics." That is an im- 
portant limitation, for even in his eyes it is not the 



104 LEONARDO 

artist alone who can lay claim to genius : indeed, he is 
fond of quoting himself as an example, and certainly he 
had no artistic sense. Nevertheless this contention, 
which is to be found in the thirty-sixth paragraph of the 
first volume of his principal work, is so fundamentally 
false, that one asks oneself how Schopenhauer could 
have been blind enough to let it stand unaltered from the 
year 1818 to the day of his death. If we only think of 
German artists, the very first that comes to our thoughts 
is -the man who was so specially admired even by Goethe, 
the great, the only, I had almost said the holy, Albrecht 
Diirer. He is one of those great " men of genius in art " 
of whom one can say that they were the beginning and 
the end and the culminating point, all in one. Of course 
historically they spring from what has gone before, and 
they lead to what is to follow after, but that association 
hangs about their noble forms like a mantle. Like the 
goddess from the sea-foam, the individual rises out of 
the mass, something new, something incomparable, that 
never was before, and never can be again. At the sight 
of such men we are struck by Schopenhauer's fine saying, 
" Art is everywhere triumphant." Perfection it is that 
blazes out upon us out of all the feverish struggles of 
these artists, Peace that smiles upon us, full of trust, and 
resting from the hurry of the eternal strife for something 
higher. And where labour and thought and prayer have 
wrought together as tireless journeymen, there at last 
reigns Harmony, divinely restful, incapable of failure. 
Among these giants is Diirer and mark this. Not only 
had he an aptitude for mathematics, but that aptitude 
was something quite out of the common. Diirer is the 
author of the first textbook of applied geometry in the 
German language 1 Besides that, he devoted a whole 
work to the hopelessly dry, and only mathematically 
interesting, subject of Fortification ; and his lectures on 
the proportion of the human figure arc a little miracle 



LEONARDO 105 

of intricate geometrical descriptions. In his partiality 
for mathematics, in his sure eye for the study, and the 
weight that he lays upon it for the educational equipment 
of the artist as he writes, " mensuration is the right 
foundation of all painting " 4 we have the special 
characteristic of this great artist. This one example is 
enough to prove that Schopenhauer's contention that 
the great artist has no aptitude for mathematics is an 
untenable generalisation from single instances. Further, 
you will easily understand that I must have it at heart 
to refute the insinuation that Kant belonged to the class 
of inferior minds lacking genius, because he had a talent 
for mathematics : far rather do we see that the possession 
of that talent gives us no right to infer a lack of artistic 
feeling. 

Now, at last, I call up the man whose radiant name 
I should be loath to cloud with polemics Leonardo da 
Vinci. No greater painter ever lived ; and this great 
painter was like Diirer, and even more than Diirer, a 
pre-eminent mathematician and mechanician. At the 
same time as we see every day more clearly a man of 
an all-embracing intellect, a Seer who penetrated all 
that his eye saw, a Discoverer so inexhaustible that the 
world has perhaps never seen his like, a deep, bold 
Thinker. Let us compare his method of Seeing with the 
methods of Goethe and Kant : that, I hope, will save us 
from all future danger of the crystallisations of the 
phrase-mongers. 

Like Goethe, this man is all Eye. He calls the Eye the 
window of the soul, finestra dell' anvma* whose precious 
qualities he is never weary of praising; the Eye is 
signore de* sensi, "Lord of the senses," 8 the Eye is the 
Source of all Knowledge. Those who rely solely on the 
study of learned writings, instead of becoming acquainted 
with the works of Nature by means of their own Eyes, 
are only grandchildren not Sons of Nature, that one 



106 LEONARDO 

teacher of all teachers. All Arts, all Sciences, all Thought, 
are according to Leonardo " daughters of the Eye," and 
so it is that the painter is nipote d Dio, " the grandson 
of God/' The Eye of this remarkable man is neverthe- 
less, like Goethe's, far from being an exclusively artistic 
organ, it has also the power of penetrating the universe. 
A brilliant light radiates from his Eye f or it is the special 
characteristic of the Eye of such men that it not only 
takes up light as others do, but also sends out rays of 
light illuminating the darkness, glowing through the 
impenetrable until it becomes transparent. A ray of 
light radiates, I say, from Leonardo's Eye so brilliantly, 
that even the most prosaic historians must admit that in 
him the intuitive power of divination of this organ verges 
upon the fabulous. Leonardo anticipated our whole 
modern natural science, that is to say so far as this was 
possible, relying upon the Eye alone and without the help of 
the higher mathematics, which were not then known, 
of the new instruments, and of the mass of observations 
which had to be mastered by whole generations. For 
example, this man who died in 1519, who had been 
brought up in the strict belief of the Church in a flat 
earth laid between Heaven and Hell, knew the principles 
of the Cosmic system as Copernicus developed them 
thirty years later. How he gained this knowledge, and 
in what connection it came to him, we know not. For 
his observations, up to the present time far from being 
all deciphered and published, are for the most part 
aphoristic, often forming an unsolvable tangle of the most 
various thoughts, jotted down in the midst of, or under, 
or across his sketches, or on the backs of his sheets of 
drawings thoughts often occurring to him in the midst 
of his painting, which he evidently seizes in a hurry, in 
order to use them elsewhere. Sometimes he writes ex- 
pressly, " This is how I must deal with the matter m 
my work," or something of the same sort : or they are 



LEONARDO 107 

clear and neat preparations for books which he seems 
never to have written, and it is only from the outline 
that we can make a guess at the direction of his thought. 
So in Leonardo's writings we find no astronomical 
system. Yet on one sheet, under a number of mathe- 
matical calculations, we find written in unusually large 
letters, il sole non $i muove, "the sun does not move." 
Not another word. Here we have clearly a sudden 
inspiration. But Leonardo is no visionary : his <was 
throughout a positive intellect, never weary of seeking 
the certezza delle scientie by the strictly empirical 
and mathematical road. Sperientia I commune madre 
di tutte le scientie e arti. "Experience is the common 
mother of all the arts and sciences," and nissuna 
hwmana investigation si po dimandare vera scientia, 
s'essa non passa per le matematiche dimostrationi, "no 
human investigation can lay claim to being true science, 
unless it can stand the test of mathematical demonstra- 
tion." Experiment, therefore, and calculation must be 
brought into court as tests of the correctness of any 
assumed fact. In the same way on other sheets we find 
a succession of investigations and deductions all circling 
round this central idea of a stationary sun and an earth 
which is in motion. Take, for instance, the important 
recognition come la terra non I nel mezzo del cerchio del 
sole, ne nel mezzo del mondo? " that the earth is not in 
the centre of the sun's orbit, nor in the centre of the 
universe." In this connection we over and over again 
find the remark that the sun is greater than the earth, 
together with the assertion that there are many stars 
that are many times bigger than the star which is the 
earth. M oUe stette vi sono che son moUissime volte maggiore 
che la Stella che I la terra? The recognition of the fact 
that the dark earth reflects light leads him to the further 
assumption that the light of the planets is also reflected 
light, and that our earth seen from the moon would have 



io8 LEONARDO 

exactly the same appearance as that which the moon 
gives us. 9 From this recognition there was but one step 
to the affirmation that the earth must be nearly spherical 
in shape and revolve round its axis. Certainly, so far as 
I know, we possess no written proof that Leonardo in 
any of his abrupt sentences ever gave expression to the 
further fundamental thought of the heliocentric system ; 
but a great portion of his work is as yet unpublished, 
and this idea of motion follows so necessarily from the 
tenets which I have cited, that we are compelled to accept 
the belief that it was known to him. If now we turn our 
attention from the movements of the constellations to 
the hidden inner movements of the body, we find that 
Leonardo with the help of a like magical power of vision 
suspected, and even had a clear idea of, the circulation of 
the blood. This ha? been denied on the ground that in 
one passage Leonardo compared the movements of the 
blood with the ebb and flow of the tide. But the objection 
breaks down, because the notes which we possess of 
Leonardo's thoughts date from the most various periods 
of his life, and nothing can blot out the words which we 
have in his own hand, in black and white, concerning 
il continue corso che fa il sangue per le sue vene, " the 
continuous course of the blood racing through its veins/' 
and over and above this that the blood which flows back 
to the heart, il sangue che torna indirieto, differs from 
that which, when the blood is driven out, closes the valves 
of the heart, che risen a le porte del core. These words 
suffice to prove a deep insight into the mechanism of the 
circulation, which at that time was unsuspected and not 
discovered until a century later : for Leonardo knows 
that the blood " runs an uninterrupted course through 
the veins/' he knows that it proceeds from the heart, and 
finds its way back to the heart, and he makes a distinction 
between the venous blood and the arterial blood. And 
here we must bear in mind that the most important 



LEONARDO 109 

works of Leonardo in this connection, as in others, are up 
to the present unpublished. They lie idle in the dust of 
libraries. 

I have chosen these two examples, the astronomical 
and the physiological, out of the great mass of material. 
Leonardo seems to have interested himself in every 
branch of science, and everywhere, through the mere 
penetrating power of his sight, coupled with the sagacity 
of his judgment, he appears to have forestalled science 
often by centuries. Think only of his right appreciation 
of the significance of petrifactions and of the geological 
strata at a time when people used to explain the one as 
the playful products of a vis plastica, while for the other 
at best the Deluge was made responsible ! But to my 
regret I can give no more time to this captivating subject. 
If you want more particulars I must refer you to the 
books upon Leonardo. 11 I must be content if, by 
quoting typical instances, I have made you familiar with 
the wonderful quality and astounding penetration of this 
power of perception. Words are insufficient, what we 
need is facts and these facts patent to every man, even 
to the unlearned, point to an intellect whose kinship with 
that of Goethe is at once striking : the same ever-open 
Eye, never satiated, the Eye of the warder Lynceus (as 
I called it in my first lecture), surveying the whole world, 
and uninterruptedly entertaining the monarch imprisoned 
in the Tower with new pictures : at the same time it is 
an Eye which creates. Yet we are struck by two im- 
portant differences. Leonardo sees more exactly than 
Goethe, his Eye is sharper, and he can do what Goethe 
never could : he can reproduce what he has seen so that 
it becomes something seen by others : he is a painter, 
and for that reason still further removed from Kant than 
Goethe. But just as the outer sense is more refined in Leo- 
nardo than in Goethe, so it is too in the case of that inner 
schematic power of perception, which Goethe hardly 



no LEONARDO 

possessed, but which in Kant was conspicuously developed. 
In this respect the relationship is reversed : Leonardo is 
nearer to Kant than Goethe was ; in mechanics, indeed, 
he is as richly gifted with genius as he is in Art. Take 
up the six beautiful volumes into which Ravaisson- 
Mollien has divided all Leonardo's manuscripts in the 
Bibliothfeque de 1'Institut, in facsimile and deciphered, 
and you will see that nine-tenths of these notes refer to 
mathematics and mechanics. Leonardo never ceased to 
calculate. His mind was busy with the squaring of the 
circle, and with groping attempts at infinitesimal calcula- 
tion ; from the flight of birds to the observation of a 
waterfall, in every direction the interest in mathematics 
and mechanics forces itself upon him side by side with 
that of the painter. In one place he speaks of mechanics 
as "a Paradise," and says of it, "the science of machinery 
or mechanics is the noblest of all the sciences " La 
scientia strumentale over machin&le 3 nobilissima. On the 
sheet which contains perhaps the very first sketch for 
the Last Supper, we find immediately under the subject a 
geometrical problem drawn and solved in ciphers, and 
another sheet which contains studies for the Apostles and 
a pathetic sketch for the Christ, shows under these figures 
a plan for a piece of machinery with explanatory notes. 
So if Leonardo and Goethe are two men in whom, in 
contradistinction to Kant, the Eye is the organ of life, 
still two very different intellects must be looking out 
from this finestra delV anima, two very different modes of 
activity, to quote Aristotle, and therefore at the same 
time two very different systems of philosophy. Starting 
from the outward and visible signs we shall reach the 
very core of the question if we pay attention to one 
thing, that Goethe wished to paint and could not, 
whilst Leonardo presents such a culminating point of 
pictorial genius, that few can reach his level, none sur- 
pass 



LEONARDO in 

Goethe's lack of capability in the plastic arts 'would be 
less striking if we did not see him from childhood so 
passionately striving to attain mastery in this very 
direction. We know that as a student in Leipzig he 
painted more than he read. It was Oeser's studio, not 
the lecture-rooms of the juristic Faculty, that he haunted: 
And with what touching industry did he carry on this 
struggle for the impossible ! 

Doch unvermogend Streben, Nachgelalle, 
Bracht' oft den Stift, den Pinsel brachf s zu Falle j 
Auf neues Wagnis endlich blieb doch nur 
Vom besten Wollen halb und halbe Spur. 

In the end Goethe himself was bound to confess, " I was 
lacking in the true plastic power," and he adds the 
precious words of irony against himself, " my attempts 
at representing nature were more like distant suspicions 
of given forms, and my figures resembled the light 
vaporous beings in Dante's Purgatorio, shadowless them- 
selves, and terror-stricken at the shadows of real bodies." 
What this defect meant Goethe accurately realised ; for 
in a conversation with Eckerrnann he quotes with praise 
words of our Leonardo, " If your son lacks the sense to 
make what he draws stand out in relief by powerful 
shadowing, so that one might grasp it in one's hand, 
then he has no talent." And do you know why Goethe 
had no talent for drawing ? Why his copies were mere 
" distant suspicions of given forms " ? Because he was 
deficient in the sense of Geometry. Because we men are 
so built that we are incapable of accurately grasping any 
form which nature presents to us, unless, consciously or 
unconsciously, we have held before it by way of com- 
parison the complex network of possible forms which is 
innate in us, and have in this way assimilated that which 
is outside all rule, incalculable, and which has never 
existed, by contrasting it with that which is regular, 
calculated and for ever unalterable. This happens 



112 LEONARDO 

without our thinking of it during every second of our 
life : we are incessantly schematising. Later on you 
will learn from Kant to what degree our whole intellectual 
being is under the domination of Scheme. " This 
schematising of our understanding, when we are face to 
face with phenomena/' he writes, " is an art hidden in 
the depths of the human soul/' For the images which 
we receive from without, that is to say the complex of 
the impressions of our senses, cannot be grasped directly, 
but our intellect the " activity " of Aristotle must 
first, as Kant says in a happy figure of speech, have 
impressed its monogram upon them. "It is only by 
means of the Scheme that images and conception can be 
brought into union/ 1 You see that from without to 
within there is an intermediary action similar to that 
which takes place from within to without. Our ideas, as 
you will remember from the metamorphosis, were only 
able to reach the Eye by borrowing a symbol, e,g. the 
leaf, from the world of the senses : but this world of the 
senses so runs the new creed can penetrate the think- 
ing consciousness in no other way than by the inter- 
mediary of schemes of the understanding; and these 
schemes coincide with the perceptions with no more 
exactitude than the symbols coincided with the ideas. 
It is not my intention at this moment to weary you with 
metaphysical disquisitions ; on the contrary, I wanted 
only to call your attention to the fact that the plastic 
artist shows us this secret domination of the " hidden 
art " of schematisation in bright daylight, and so smooths 
the way for the understanding of one of the most difficult 
passages of Kant's Critique of the Doctrine of Perception. 
For the great painter, consciously and in the sight of all 
men, puts into concrete form that which in others exists 
in the unconscious " depths of the soul/ 1 

That is why Diirer wrote those words which perhaps 
may have struck you as strange a little while ago " The 



LEONARDO 113 

art of mensuration is the true foundation of all painting/' 
and the same order of thought gives rise to what he writes 
on the next page : " The outer (practical) work must be 
the indication of the inner understanding." And in 
order that you may realise how powerfully the geometrical 
and schematic principle is developed in so pre-eminent a 
modeller, and how busily it is at work, I would beg you 
to take up another work of Diirer's, " the four Books of 
human proportion," not in a modern abbreviated 
edition, but in the original small folio of 1528, with all 
the charts and tables, as they left the master's hands. 
You will be astounded at the world of numbers and 
geometrical figures in which Diirer lived; they are 
enough to make you giddy. Indeed, every complication 
can be solved by figures, yielding of its own accord 
without any involving of the imagination : .but one can 
hardly grasp how any man should have been able to 
carry in his head, as something visible, such complicated 
geometrical figures, as Diirer was obviously able to do. 
In the two first books the many charts of figures and the 
painful precision of the measurements will strike you as 
imposing. But now look at the third book ! Here Diirer 
teaches us how we may at will change the fixed propor- 
tions ; for instance, he takes a woman of average propor- 
tions that he has already shown us, and makes her first 
long and thin, then short and monstrously fat ; or else 
he changes one part of the body, leaving the other parts 
as they were, etc., and all this he does without ever 
departing from the established foundations of geometrical 
schemes, and with the help of instruments which he calls 
" the perverter," " the falsifier," etc. The fourth book 
is almost more interesting : it shows " how you may 
distort the previously described images," and yet it is no 
simple doctrine of perspective in our sense of the word, 
but rather what mathematicians call the geometry of 
position, bound up with that of projection. You need 
i. i 



114 LEONARDO 

only look at the figures on page Y4, Z, and those that 
follow, in order to arrive at the understanding of what 
Diirer expects of the art-disciple. 

Leonardo's brain was organised in like fashion. To be 
sure he was not so self-tormenting f or instance, look at 
his doctrine of perspective, how bright it seems by the 
side of Diirer's, yet always and everywhere he paid 
respect to the mathematical relations, always bringing 
calculation into play, always displaying the geometrical 
Scheme between the Eye and the Object. One hundred 





and fifty years ago, Charles Bonnet, the Genevan botanist, 
introduced the so-called doctrine of Phyllotaxy, that is 
to say, the exact observation of the relative position of 
the leaves on the stalk. 

To the most widely spread form of this relative position 
he gave the name of Quincunx : in this the sixth leaf 
after the stalk has been twice encircled invariably stands 
immediately above the first ; accordingly every cycle of 
leaves consists of five leaves. This discovery was the 
result of years of study by an experienced professed 
botanist. But two hundred and fifty years earlier 
Leonardo's artist-eye had observed the Quincunx, and 



LEONARDO 

had drawn it with the most painful care, and that too 
in his Book on Painting*-* You see with what mathe- 
matical precision the painter observed ! and not only with 
precision, but also with schematisation, for as a matter 
of fact this position is only approximative^ existent. 
But in order that you may also see the geometrician at 
work, I have copied here a little sketch out of Ravaisson- 
Mollien (M.S. M. f. 78 overleaf). To this Leonardo has 
added the note " all twigs possess lines which work 
towards the central point of the tree." In order to under- 
stand him you must naturally only 
take into consideration the youngest 
twigs, and you must realise how 
this so-called central point year 
by year moves upwards, quickly at 
first, then slowly. Even so there is 
great boldness in such a schematisa- 
tion. On other pages you will see 
how Leonardo was at pains to apply 
to the human head a similar law 
of relationship to the Kne of circum- 
ference. His comparative studies 
of various human heads, including 
monstrous deformities, are so well known that I need 
do.no more than allude to them.* 

This cursory outline may suffice to show you what 
special qualities must be at work in a man who is capable 
of reproducing that which he has seen. Where these 
qualities are lacking there can be no painter, because 
there is no organ for the correct assimilation of form, and 
every attempt yields nothing but " distant siispicions." 
Of such men who are willing but incapable, Leonardo 
says, Multi sono gli uomini chi anno desitlerio & amore al 
disegno ma non disposizione "many are the men who 

* Leonardo drew a circle, by the help of which he fi*ed every point of the 
human head in a Scheme nose, chin, ear*, eyes, etc. 




n6 LEONARDO 

have the wish to draw and who take delight in it, but 
who have not the capability" the disposizione lies in the 
aptitude for schematising. Naturally the geometrical 
quality by itself is not enough : yet it must not be 
wanting. The man who keeps the scheme steadily 
before his Eye, notes every deviation in the form, whereas 
on the other hand a Goethe, as we have seen, was rather 
inclined to underestimate points of difference, and in 
everything to see the points of union. " I was born in 
the school of identity," is his confession, but that is no 
school of painting. On the other hand, it is certainly 
interesting to discover that the thinker with closed eyes, 
whose stupendous schematic power of representation 
thought out the theory of the Heavfens, showed in this 
respect a true intellectual relationship with a Diirer and 
a Leonardo. However much the science of mathematics 
may on one side root itself in logic, and signify in many 
of its adepts a purely abstract logical exercise of the 
intellect, still the living water that gives nourishment 
to the tree is the power of the Eye, and so it may happen 
that a Kant may in certain respects stand in closer 
relationship to Leonardo than Goethe. In order to keep 
up the association of ideas in what I have to say, I shall 
return to this subject later, but I shall beg you once for 
all not to forget that the power of schematisation is a 
true formative power. 

In the meantime we must still linger awhile over the 
comparison between Leonardo and Goethe. I wish to 
show you how far-reaching is the difference that we have 
here observed in the Eye at work. For this purpose 
Leonardo's judgments on the essence of Art will be of 
service to us. According to him the senses are the true 
agents in real art, and the man who, like the poet, excites 
the conceptions of the senses by descriptions alone, 
makes use of a subordinate and indirect species of Art. 
Leonardo exclaims proudly, se 7 pittore wl vedeve belkzze 



LEONARDO 117 

che lo inamorino egli n'e signore di generarle. That the 
poet is equally master of producing beauty that shall 
be capable of exciting his love, that Leonardo denies. 
For il senso piu nobile is the Eye, and next to this noblest 
sense follows the Ear, la musica si deve chiamare sorella 
minore della pittura, whereas the artist in words is only 
indirectly and not really an artist, because he can only 
produce forms by roundabout ways, and by steering 
clear of the impressions of the senses : e per questo il 
poeta resta, inquanto alia figurazione delle cose corporee, 
molto indietro al pittore, e delle cose invisibili rimane 
indietro al wiusico, " the Poet in the representation of 
bodily things remains far behind the painter, and in that 
of invisible things, behind the musician." But the 
strongest objection that Leonardo has to make against 
the poet, is che non ha potesta in un medesimo tempo di 
dire diverse cose, " that he has not the power of saying 
several things at one and the same time " ; but it must 
be the aim of Art to waken that Harmony of many tones 
which lies slumbering in the human soul, and that must 
take place with lightning rapidity, like an inspiration of 
the Deity : for armonia non s'ingenera se non in istanti, 
nei quali le proportionality degli ojetti si fan vedere o'udire. 
" Harmony cannot be bred otherwise than in instants in 
which the relative proportions of things are seen or heard." 
Here, obviously, it is the plastic artist who is master, for 
he alone reveals his whole work in one single moment, 
and that is why Leonardo speaks of his art as a Divinity, 
una Deitfc. But the musician too gives in every moment 
a multiform perfect Harmony, while on the contrary the 
word-poet is forced to build up bit by bit, I'una parte 
nasce datt* altra successivamente, e non nasce la succedente, 
se V antecendente non muore, " one part is born from the 
other in succession, and the following part is not born 
unless the previous part is dead." It is not my intention 
here to discuss the aesthetic doctrines of Leonardo : I 



u8 LEONARDO 

have only felt compelled to show you with what a 
passionate bias this clear-sighted man paid respect to 
the Eye, and, beside the Eye, to the direct impressions 
of the senses in general as opposed to all mere reflection. 
The point of contact with Richard Wagner is clear, and 
in any other connection would give occasion to useful 
considerations. 

Here, however, we have one immediate and special 
interest Leonardo, the man whose Eye at once re- 
minded us of Goethe's Eye, is not only the antipodes of 
Goethe in respect to the scientific observation of Nature, 
but he comes very near to refusing altogether to recognise 
as true art that very art in which Goethe rendered im- 
mortal services. From the point of view which we are 
for the moment adopting, Goethe and Leonardo stand 
so far apart that we should hardly bring them into 
relationship, were it not for Kant who holds out the hand 
to both. For as a matter of fact, Kant, whom a while 
ago we found to be of so near kin to Leonardo that the 
two viewed from the distant Goethe appeared like brothers, 
now, seen from point of view of Leonardo's aesthetics, 
seems to move close up to Goethe. In this method of 
constructing " parcel-wise " una parte nasce dalV altra 
we were able to discover a characteristic of Kant's method 
of perception ; now it is Leonardo who shows us, that it 
is equally characteristic of every professor of the art of 
thinking, even of the Poet and instinctively these 
words, una parte nasce daW attra, call to our recollection 
Goethe's Doctrine of Metamorphosis. Of course Goethe 
examines nature with an Eye differing from that of 
Kant, yet he too is forced to construct, and in order to 
put the phenomena of nature perspicuously into fonn 
and to embody them in his memory, he cannot help 
allowing one part to arise from another. That is the 
exact purport of Metamorphosis. Practically there is, 
then, in Goethe's intellectual personality, exactly as i& 



LEONARDO 119 

Kant's, a preponderant quality that we might well 
indicate with Kant as " understanding " in contra- 
distinction to " Sense," or perhaps still better as Reason 
(in the Kantian sense of " the whole higher power of 
recognition,") in contradistinction to the power of obser- 
vation. In both these men, Goethe and Kant, however 
various may have been the sources at which they drew 
their impressions, the insistence upon the idea of 
dallying with theory forms a common feature, However 
different from the path trodden by Kant may be that 
by which Goethe reached his Ideas, he is only quite at 
home, only quite the master, quite the creator, in that 
domain which Kant calls the Higher Power as opposed 
to a Lower Power ; while Leonardo looks upon this so- 
called Lower Power as the Higher Power, and takes no 
account of any knowledge that has not, " "Born of the 
experience of the senses, made its way through mathe- 
matical exposition, and found its final conclusion in 
experiment." That is why he exhorts us to put no faith 
in authors who have wished by the force of imagination 
alone to make themselves interpreters between nature 
and man : non vi fidate degli autori che anno solo cotta 
imagination voluto farsi interprete fra la natura alV 
uomo, and warns us not to give ourselves up to those 
things of which the human mind is incapable and which 
cannot be demonstrated by any natural example : 
Quelle cose di che la mente umana non e capace e non si 
possono dimostrare per nessuno esemplo naturale. As you 
see, Leonardo will only accept in relation to Nature the 
most strict empiricism knitting together effect and cause, 
whereas formation by Ideas as practised by Goethe, 
and defended by Kant, seemed to him to be idle imagina- 
tion, or as be also called it biigiarda scientia, a science of 
lies. 

Here then we discover how far-reaching is the difference 
between Goethe and Leonardo ; for it is not merely con- 



120 LEONARDO 

cerned with art alone, but extends to the whole method of 
contemplating nature. In the previous lecture we saw 
that Goethe was working with ideas when he believed 
himself to be in possession of experiences : that at once 
gives you an example of the dominant power of Reason 
of the Higher Power of Recognition in contradistinction 
to empirical contemplation. For, as we saw in our 
investigation of the doctrine of metamorphosis, Ideas are 
certainly something seen, but not empirically seen ; in 
other words, they are not given to us by mere experience. 
It is true that they are rooted in Impressions of the 
senses, though that is only the field which gives them 
nourishment : the air which surrounds them is that of 
Reason, and the daylight in which we see them, radiates 
from within out of a focus imaginarius. 

There is a saying of Kant's which will render us good 
service at this moment : for it describes exactly what it 
is that divides Goethe and Leonardo, and at the same 
time affords us a deep insight into Kant's own method of 
seeing ; by abstract study we might perhaps have failed 
altogether in understanding his view ; but in the light 
and shade of Leonardo's and Goethe's methods, his view 
stands out in plastic form, Kant is speaking of the 
essential nature of the Poet. After having, in diametrical 
opposition to Leonardo, assigned the highest of all 
artistic rank to the art of Poetry, he gives the poet the 
credit of encouraging " a free, personal and independent 
Power, untrammelled and unhampered, of observing and 
judging Nature as phenomenon, according to views which 
She herself affords neither to the senses nor to the under- 
standing, and therefore to make use of her in the interests, 
and for the Schematisation of that which is transcen- 
dental " (i.e. beyond the senses). The poet, then, teaches 
us to lopk upon Nature from points of view which direct 
experience does not offer us, and opens up in us a power 
to make use of what is clear to our Senses for the benefit 



LEONARDO 121 

of the schematisation of that which transcends them, 
This definition of the poet gives us an exact idea of 
Goethe's position in regard to Nature. In his method of 
observation there is a continual exchange between that 
with which the senses furnish us and that in which the 
experience of the senses only acts as a spring-board. 
Goethe is a good, trusty and, where necessary, a sober 
observer of Nature ; in spite of which it is in the noblest 
sense of the word a poetical longing I must add a yearn- 
ing and a formative power which impels him to obser- 
vation : he wishes to put in practice that " free, personal 
and independent power," and unconsciously he flies far 
beyond the boundaries of empirical experience. His 
Orphische Urworte with its last line : 

Ein Fliigehchlag ! Und Mnter uns ^Eonen / 

" One stroke of the wings ! And behind us aeons ! " 
appeared first in the Morphologic of which the masterly 
Athroismos belongs to the osteology, and here in the 
midst of illustrations of bones and comparative tables he 
cries out : 

Nimrn worn Munde der Muse, 
Dass du schauest) nicht schivarmst^ die Heblicke voile 



" Take from the mouth of the muse the sweet full cer- 
tainty that thou art seeing and under no delusion." So 
it is the Muse that is to be our guardian goddess in the 
domain of the investigation of nature. Goethe, indeed, 
in certain moments is fully conscious of his own method 
of procedure ; for in his legacy of notes upon natural 
science we find the following most noteworthy passage : 
" Phantasy is far nearer to nature than the senses : the 
latter are in nature, the former hovers over her. Phantasy 
can hold its own with nature, the senses are mastered by 
her." There you see at work the free, personal power, of 
which Kant spoke ; at the same time you see the exact 
opposite of Leonardo's convictions and principles. For 



122 LEONARDO 

according to Leonardo all forms of knowledge are vain 
and full of errors, vane e piene di ervori, unless they be 
created from the experience of the senses and tested by 
scientific experiment. Leonardo is such a strict empiric, 
that he goes so far as to warn the artist that he must 
know no other aim than to gareggiare colla natura, liter- 
ally " to compete with nature." How differently the Eyes 
of Goethe and Leonardo work we see not only in the 
Doctrines to which their method of Seeing gives occasion, 
but also in the success of their activity* Not only can 
Leonardo say of himself, " in painting I can stand com- 
parison with any other man, be he who he may," 13 
while Goethe, after toiling for years, is obliged to confess 
the contrary, but Leonardo's contributions * to science 
are throughout of a different nature from those of Goethe. 
I am far from underrating Goethe's doctrine of meta- 
morphosis, his doctrine of colour, his other scientific 
thoughts ; rather am I deeply convinced that his whole 
method of observing Nature possesses for the culture of 
the human intellect a significance of which we are only 
just beginning to be aware. In many respects Goethe is 
even now hardly born. But this significance is one of 
culture and not of true science in the strict sense of the 
word. Goethe will teach us " to cast a free Eye upon the 
wide field of nature " a free Eye, that is to say the 
Eye of the conscious human creator, who no longer 
stands in dull obedience at the command of idle Matter, 
but who is able " to hold his own with Nature " : and 
that means at the same time the eye of the man who is 
no longer dazzled by his own compelling hallucinations, 
but who, thanks to Kant's efforts, has won together with 
his own freedom, the freedom of Nature. All this, to 
which I propose to return to-day, so soon as our observa- 
tions shall have ripened sufficiently, we can perceive, 
and yet must admit that it was Goethe's part to excite 
and spur on exact natural science rather than really to 



LEONARDO 123 

further it himself : while Leonardo, on the contrary, who 
saw as a schematises and thought as a mechanician, was 
such a master of the art of gaining knowledge, that in 
his guesses he anticipated the triumphant course of our 
natural history. As Kant proclaimed to us, " experience 
alone is the fountain of truth in the observation of 
Nature." Leonardo knew that full well : gareggiare 
colla natura, " to compete with nature " that was his 
maxim not only in art, but also in science ; it was his 
delight and the cause of his success. That the earth 
revolves is no symbolical idea, like Goethe's doctrine of 
metamorphosis, but a concrete theory ; that the blood 
is chased from the heart through the veins, is not, like 
the discovery of the intermaxillary bone, an inference 
from an a priori admission, but a fact discovered by pains- 
taking autopsy and observation. In respect of pure 
natural science, I think we may say that Leonardo sur- 
passed Goethe almost as much as he did in painting. He 
knows the only true method : one sees that in him at 
once : and that says everything. Observation, experi- 
ment, mathematical calculation, these are the three 
principles which he again and again impresses as the 
foundation of all knowledge. If beyond this we remember 
that he devoted a passionate interest to the technics of 
instruments (he built himself a sort of telescope for the 
observation of the moon a century before Galilei), we 
must admit that he possessed all the qualities which go 
to make the born investigator of Nature. 

By working up with more and more sharpness the 
contrast between Leonardo and Goethe, we have now 
reached the critical point, that is to say the point where 
we shall be rewarded if we sink a deep shaft, confident of 
coming upon a vein of the precious metal of discernment. 
Whoso thoroughly understands the difference between the 
value for science set upon mathematics by Leonardo and 
that set by Goethe, has gained xnpch, not only in the 



124 LEONARDO 

estimate of the two great intellects, but for his own 
thought-life in general At the same time this point is 
one of those which are of primary importance for the 
understanding of the intellect of Kant. For if a little 
while ago we saw Kant near very near to Goethe we 
see him quickly move back to Leonardo as soon as stress 
is laid not upon Art and Idea, but upon Science and 
Mathematics. Here it is not only the analogy of qualities 
between Leonardo and Kant which is dominant, as it 
was just now in the case of the observation of schematis- 
ing, but a true close kinship in the whole manner of 
looking upon the universe. There, at a great distance, 
Goethe stands aloof. 

I have already spoken of Leonardo's love for mathe- 
matics ; but I must still claim your patience for a few 
moments. Non mi legga chi non I matematico, " let no 
man read me who is not a mathematician " ! Such 
forcible language as this should be enough ! but we have 
still got to learn that in Leonardo this is no question of a 
mere predilection, nor even of an instrument indispensable 
to the practical artist, but the insight of a philosopher 
into the essence of the human intellect. " The man who 
undervalues mathematics nourishes himself upon con- 
fusion/' says Leonardo, chi biasima la somma certezza 
detta matematica, si pasce di confusione e mai porrA 
silentio alle contraditioni delle sqffistiche scientie, colle 
quali s'inpara uno eterno gridore. " For truth and the 
power of knowledge are contained in the mathematical 
sciences/' That is a very important saying, " the power 
of knowledge/' Goethe would not have subscribed to it : 
Kant would have done so with both hands. And because 
practical knowledge is joined to the mathematical way 
of thinking, therefore Leonardo lays down the dogma 
that " no human investigation can lay claim to be con* 
sidered as true science unless it will stand the test of 
mathematical demonstration/' For the criterion of 



LEONARDO 125 

true science vera scientia is incontrovertible certainty, 
and knowledge in the sense of certainty is only afforded 
by mathematics. The consequence of this is that nessuna 
certezza e, dove non si puo applicare una delle scientie 
matematiche over che non sono unite con esse mate- 
matiche, therefore no investigation can lay the founda- 
tion of true science, unless it can and does follow the path 
of mathematical exposition, that is Leonardo's impreg- 
nable conviction. It is with the clear recognition of the 
relationship between mathematics and knowledge that 
this miracle of a man forestalled Kant, in the same way 
that in his discoveries he anticipated Copernicus and 
Harvey. In one of his ripest works, Die Aufangsgrunde 
der Naturwissenschaft, Kant writes in the same way, " I 
maintain that in every special nature-doctrine there will 
be found only so much exact science as it contains of 
mathematics." Certainly Kant, the thinker, analysed 
more exactly than Leonardo. The whole tenour of 
Kant's general philosophy teaches us to distinguish 
between " exact " and " inexact " science ; he has 
shown us that a science which rests upon empirical 
observation alone, is only worthy of the name and 
dignity of a " science," so far as it does not deviate from 
experience, ordering its discovered facts systematically, 
and dissecting them in accordance with the relationship 
between cause and effect ; but that such science should 
preferably be called systematic art (giving as an example 
the chemistry of his time), because the apodictic certainty 
of any true knowledge needs something more than 
empirical experience. This Something, which Kant 
calls the " Pure Part," is exactly that inner, human code 
of laws, which, in so far as it touches intuitive vision, 
is called mathematics. Nothing, with the single excep- 
tion of mathematics, gives apodictic certainty, and 
apodictic certainty alone can be called knowledge in 
the strict sense of the word. Therefore, the more 



126 LEONARDO 

we have of mathematics, the more we have of exact 
Science. 

You see what a true and deep-reaching kinship exists 
between the methods of observation of these two men, 
who at first sight seemed so diametrically opposed to one 
another. Kant, absolutely devoid of all artistic gifts, 
has yet the power of recognising the fundamental signifi- 
cance of form and measurement in the building up of 
human knowledge ; and in many of his works, and more 
especially in Die Metaphysichen Anfangsgrunde der 
Nafarwissenschaft, proves himself to be a genius of the 
first quality in the despotic domain of this schematic 
manner of Seeing ; Leonardo, the artist, the painter of 
the Last Supper and the Mona Lisa, is none the less 
devoted to mathematics and mechanics ; he compares 
the influence upon the intellect of their incontrovertible 
certainty, with that of light upon the Eye, and with the 
exaggeration of the hot-blooded artistic temperament, 
he utters the opinion that here alone lies the certainty of 
knowledge. 

We have to deal here with a true harmony between the 
dispositions of the two men. And as a matter of fact this 
harmony reveals itself exactly where Goethe misses fire 
for we may legitimately here speak of a miss-fire as 
well in art as in philosophy. So far as art is concerned 
we may well overlook the position, inasmuch as Goethe 
himself bitterly felt his own failure. But in the matter 
of philosophy he was not so clearly conscious, and that 
is what has led us and him to a condition in which the 
pascersi di confusione has gained great force. That Goethe 
despised mathematics is of course the foolish twaddle of 
the titmice that chirp on every twig of life ; a single 
sentence of his suffices to refute it : " no one can set a 
higher value on mathematics than I do, for mathematics 
afford precisely that which it has been denied to me to 
accomplish/' 14 So he too felt that here something had 



LEONARDO 127 

been " denied to him/' and how highly he often valued 
this " something denied " is shown by a sentence in the 
Farbenlehre, the Doctrine of Colour, a passage where any 
irritation against the mathematicians might have been 
excused, and where in spite of that Goethe declares mathe- 
matics to be " one of the noblest organs of mankind." Still 
we must admit that Goethe was not only deficient in the 
power of practising mathematics, but was even unable 
fully to appreciate the essence of the science in its 
inevitable influence upon the human intellect. " It is a 
mistake to imagine," he exclaims pettishly, " that when 
I have discovered the mathematical equation for a 
phenomenon I know all about it that is worth knowing, 
and can consider the whole matter as sufficiently dealt 
with and to be laid on the shelf." 15 What does he 
mean ? The function of mathematics is to apprehend, 
to prove according to the laws of motion, to reduce 
clearly to a science just as Albrecht Diirer did for the 
outer form of the human body, and as Leonardo tried to 
do for the mechanism of the circulation of the blood in its 
inner parts. " The book of Nature is written in the 
language of mathematics," says Galilei. Goethe, on the 
other hand, finds a contradiction between the phenome- 
non observed and the mathematical scheme. For this 
sentiment he has to thajtik the pure power of his sight ; 
but instead of allowing himself to be taught by Kant 
that if Image and Scheme do not exactly tally, it is due 
to the essential quality of the human intellect ; 16 instead 
of recognising with Leonardo the fact that mathematical 
representation is the necessary orgaji of everything which 
can be called Science in the sense of exact knowledge, 
and that what he, Goethe, is striving after is not Science 
but something different, that is to say a glorified Con- 
templation, that World of the Eye of which we spoke 
in the previous lecture, and that this World demands 
ideal exposition ; instead of all this, Goethe obstinately 



128 LEONARDO 

works himself up into the unfortunate idea that there can 
be an unmathematical science, that the employment of 
mathematics must be kept within bounds, and that they 
must be relegated to a narrow domain in the Study of 
Nature, etc. Science and art, so he maintains, have 
" fallen into pitiable error through the wrongful employ- 
ment of mathematics." 17 When we remember that 
Goethe's unmathematical dicta, of which we could cite 
many, are chiefly in the department of optics, and when 
we consider what a famous advance mathematical 
optics have made since Goethe's time, and what a wide 
outlook upon comprehensive knowledge has been opened 
up in this very direction in our days by the work of 
Maxwell and Hertz ; when we realise the present 
importance of spectral analysis to astronomy, chemistry, 
and physics ; and then when we see Goethe ridiculing 
the spectrum as little more than a mere puerility of 
Newton's, we must feel that however much the great 
observer of nature and Poet may have the right to view 
Nature in his own fashion, he is yet lacking in the under- 
standing of the mathematical method of exact science. 
And this is the more striking when we find in Leonardo, 
two hundred years before Newton, a few but astonishingly 
correct remarks about the colours of the spectrum, and 
when we think of Kant's high estimate of the undulation 
theory of Huyghens, we have then the experimental proof 
that if we follow Goethe in the path of science, we 
advance no further in the exact sciences, whereas by 
following the mathematical path, which he detested and 
which Kant looked upon as the only right way, we have 
advanced from one theoretical and practical attainment 
to another. 

What, then, is the essence of the mathematical method ? 
That is a question which it is impossible for us here to 
shirk, otherwise we should neither understand correctly 
Leonardo's extreme way of viewing Nature, nor Goethe's, 



LEONARDO 129 

nor should we understand why Kant's philosophical 
critique enables him to do justice to both these antago- 
nistic views. I shall try to answer the question at once 
in as few and as simple words as possible, leaning indeed 
upon Kant, but without making him responsible for my 
free and illustrative exposition ; we shall deal more 
precisely with the matter in observations to be added 
hereafter. 

So soon as we thoughtfully, I use the word " thought- 
ful " in contradistinction to passive contemplation, so 
soon as we thoughtfully approach Nature and construct 
that " unity of objects " without which she would no 
longer be Nature but Chaos, every single conjunction, 
arrange it as we may, means Motion. Think only of the 
commonest perceptions of any Bodies that you please, 
which you, innocent of any attempt at philosophising, 
simply join together, thinking in contemplative conscious- 
ness, something in the same way as the herdsman watches 
his grazing herd. Either the objects are at rest, and then 
our mind must move in order to perceive them, whereby 
we arrive at Form, or our mind is at rest and the objects 
move before it and then we arrive at Number : in most 
cases the two sorts of conjunction will take place simul- 
taneously ; and as you see, whether we direct our obser- 
vation to the proximity in space, or to the sequence in 
Time, Motion is always at the bottom of it. Motion, says 
Kant, is that which unites space and time, and motion 
conceived, that is to say grasped by Reason, is Mathe- 
matics. If we look at the still geometrical figures in our 
school-books, we sometimes think that here is the very 
emblem of rest ; but in the next lecture we shall see how 
the great Descartes laid the foundation of the higher 
mathematics, when he taught us to set free into Motion 
every resting Form, whereby we attain a second gift, 
namely, the power to convert every species of Motion 
into a visible, permanent Form, 

I. -K 



I 3 o LEONARDO 

But just in the same way as these higher mathematics 
proceed from the union of Geometry and Arithmetic, so 
it is only by further, and, as closer observation shows, 
powerful conjunctions of space and time, that a really 
intelligible and logical Nature comes into existence for 
us, and it is from these conjunctions that we realise the 
ideas of the inter-relationship of various perceptions, 
of the interchangeability of phenomena, of causative 
cohesion. Thus, for example, the relationship between 
cause and effect signifies a twofold Motion in space and 
time. You will find that set forth with unsurpassable 
lucidity in the fourth paragraph of Schopenhauer's 
principal work, to which I refer you. 18 And with further 
investigation and thought you will understand how 
Kant arrives at the definition, " Matter is that which is 
movable," and at the assertion that space can only be 
filled by motion. And that you may not think that I 
am leading you on to the pin-points of the most abstract 
philosophy, but that, on the contrary, you may under- 
stand that J am dealing here with the concrete and 
necessary apprehension of Nature by human intelligence, 
I will call your attention to the fact that our modern 
physics,- however antimetaphysical may be their attitude 
in their empirical delusion, learn to recognise Kant's 
standpoint as the only justifiable one, and that the little 
globules of atoms are only preserved as a deduction and 
a help for coarser intellects, whereas Lord Kelvin and 
other leading spirits among the mathematical physicists 
speak of " centres of energy," and by atoms understand 
gyrating motion. Lord Armstrong,* in his book Electric 
Movements in Air and Water, asserts that there is no 
ground for looking upon Matter as anything else but 
Motion. Even the hypothetical aether he rejects as super- 

* I purposely cite English investigators because no others, not ever* 
Italians and Frenchmen, are so far removed from the influence of German 
metaphysics, 



LEONARDO 131 

fluous, and is of opinion that " empty space would do 
just as well, if we only chose to conceive a continuity of 
interacting motions/' 19 

I think that this sketch, slight as it is, will suffice to 
make you understand and accept Kant's apodictic 
assertion, " natural science is throughout a doctrine of 
Motion, either pure or applied." 

But here comes in a second important consideration, 
not, like the first one, composed of physical elements, 
but purely philosophical. The highest code of this 
science of Motion is not perceived as a fact in Nature, 
but is rooted in the essence of Reason. It is we ourselves, 
we men, who have no other possibility of comprehending 
Matter, that is to say, when we aim at a comprehension 
of Nature which shall be logical, thoughtful, and capable 
of founding an apodictic certainty of knowledge; it is 
we ourselves, I say, who are unable to comprehend 
Matter otherwise than as Motion, and for whom in conse- 
quence of this every vera scientia, every absolute certainty 
is bound to result in a doctrine of motion either pure or 
applied. The human understanding works out the, 
analysis of Motion by its special gift of schematic experi- 
ence which we call mathematics. It is by mathematics 
that the human intellect assimilates and digests that 
which is foreign to it and outside of its ken. Much is 
rejected, but what remains from that time forth becomes 
possessed of a humanly comprehensible form. That is 
what Kant means when he says, "the highest law of 
Nature must lie in ourselves, that is to say in our under- 
standing," To put it rather roughly, but in a way 
suited to the present standpoint of our study, Nature 
gives the facts, the human understanding gives the laws. 
To formulate this let me once more bring forward words 
of Kant's, " the human understanding does not create 
its laws out of Nature, but imposes them upon her." At 
the first blush this remark will perhaps strike you as 



132 LEONARDO 

strongly paradoxical, but it will suffice for the present if 
you to a certain extent clearly grasp these two things : 
all exact Science, in the true and strict meaning of the 
word, resolves itself into a Doctrine of Motion. All 
Doctrine of Motion is mathematics, and so far human. To 
try to escape from a law of our true Being is nothing 
less than an attempt to creep out of our own skin. We 
may well therefore praise the acuteness of the great 
Leonardo, who had so rightly and energetically grasped 
the fundamental law of all exact investigation in 
opposition to whom when a man comes forward, even 
should he be a Goethe, and exclaims, Friends ! I will 
teach you a Science that shall be unmathematical, then 
we recognise and acknowledge the fact that the great 
man is entangled in deep error. Indeed, the error is two- 
fold, first inasmuch as his definition of Science cannot be 
called adequate, and secondly because he does not 
rightly grasp the essence of mathematics, and their 
law-giving function in reference to all that constitutes 
causal conjunction, and that means Nature as it exists 
in our thoughts. 

Quite another question is whether that which Goethe 
strove after, that is to say an unmathematical, and to 
that extent un4ogical and therefore unscientific com- 
prehension of Nature, is not, say what you will, entitled 
to a profound measure of justification. Here, too, is a 
question that we must not leave unanswered, for it is of 
weighty importance in the understanding of Kant. But 
in order to answer that question we must do as we did in 
our former lecture ; we must undertake an excursus 
which will furnish us with the indispensable and self- 
evident material. If you were minded without any 
further preparation to plunge headlong into Kant's 
abstract-analytical method of thought, I suspect that it 
would be Very difficult for you to bring a vivid under- 
standing to bear upon his exegesis of an unmathematical 



LEONARDO 133 

conception of Nature, what he calls " Nature as ex- 
position " whereas starting from Goethe you are at 
once in a position to understand Kant, and so will be able 
to delight in the unexampled profundity of the most 
powerful of all thinkers. We must then take heart and 
undertake an examination of the relationship between 
exact Mathematical Science, to which alone Leonardo 
assigned any value, and Goethe's comprehension of 
Nature. In the main this excursus will result in a com- 
parison of physical optics and Goethe's doctrine of colour ; 
there are, however, some general remarks with which we 
have to set out, and which will weave themselves into 
our exposition as it progresses. 



The difficulty which at the outset attaches to our task 
is the fact that Goethe himself was devoid of any theo- 
retical consciousness of his own procedure, one might 
even say of his own aim. His own saying, " a man has 
never gained so much ground as when he does not know 
whither the way leads/' is true of himself ; for while he 
believed that he was doing no more than lending a hand 
in contemporary investigations of nature, he was in 
reality founding a new method. That is the naked truth, 
the unrecognised truth which seems to have foundered 
without leaving a trace, yet not for ever, in the noise and 
dust of the vulgar riot of our successful mechanical 
science. There are moments in the activities of great 
intellects where they render superlative services : that 
is when they do not quite understand themselves, when 
they enter the lists to do battle passionately for some 
impossible assertion, in spite of being gifted with a keener 
sight than their fellows, and with more consequential 
thought than their censors: for it is just here where 
they entangle themselves in a mass of contradictions, 
that they work like an unconscious natural force, paving 



134 LEONARDO 

the way for future knowledge : here the intellect collects 
itself into an avalanche ready to sweep clean all the tidy 
paths of human frivolity, or like a volcano bursts the too 
heavily weighted cirust in which the idleness of tens of 
centuries has imprisoned the bright fiery element of the 
soul of man. Only consider Goethe, that noble man ! 
Is it thinkable that he with his brilliant eyes should have 
looked in the light during a whole lifetime, and have 
seen nothing true ? Yet, as I know that here. I shall at 
once be tilting against unbelief and contradiction, I will 
quote the words of a pioneer in exact natural science, 
the admittedly greatest physiologist of the nineteenth 
century, Johannes Miiller. He was what Louis Agassiz, 
Clerk Maxwell, and Heinrich Hertz (but with their 
exceptions a dwindling number of our famous natural 
investigators) were, a really lofty intellect of permanent 
importance. Here is what Miiller says with reference to 
Goethe's essay on the skeletons of rodents, " It is 
impossible to point to anything similar which comes up 
to this projection sketched from the centre of the organ- 
isation. Unless I am mistaken there lies in this outline 
the foreshadowing of a distant ideal of natural history," 
Remember these words " the foreshadowing of a distant 
ideal " ! And Miiller, the exact investigator of nature, 
prizes the awakening of this foreshadowing so highly, 
that on the next page he pronounces the judgment, that 
Goethe has " reached the greatest " not only as artist, 
but also as investigator. 20 Here, too, is a judgment which 
should never be forgotten. For we moderns have grown 
up under the nourishing showers of pseudo-scientific 
platitudes ; Rudolf Virchow alone dared forty years 
ago to take Goethe as investigator publicly under his 
protection, a weighty witness indeed, upon whose exacti-' 
tude and unimaginativeness no man will cast a doubt, 
but who unfortunately was not competent altogether to 
lift the veil of misunderstanding : for to that end would 



JLKOJMAKDO 135 

have been required that philosophical training . which 
Virchow abominated, so that his fine words raised a 
great storm of dust at the time, tut soon died away 
leaving no influence behind them. 21 

In these days every tiny two-legged wheel in the great 
machine of science thinks himself justified in shrugging 
his shoulders over Goethe as an investigator of Nature. 
I happen to possess an autograph letter from one of these 
celebrities, who rates his professorial dignity at a height 
which entitles him to allow himself the following judg- 
ment of Goethe : " his conception of Nature is just what 
an easy-going aesthete and collector of curiosities might 
make up out of his walks abroad." This is the audacity 
of a man of middling capacity whom the schoolmaster's 
rod and the sting of hunger have raised by luck to the 
degree of Doctor of Philosophy, and finally up the three 
steps of the Professorial Chair ! A man whose fame may 
perhaps live through two or three editions of our encyclo- 
paedias, dares to speak in this way of the princely intellect 
of a Goethe, of that god-like Eye which for more than 
half a century never ceased in the thoughtful contem- 
plation of Nature, of a man of whom a Johannes Muller 
could pronounce the opinion that as an investigator he 
" reached the greatest." 

But enough of this. If I were to talk myself into a 
state of indignation over the intellectual decay resulting 
from the narrow empiricism of a tyrannical science which 
has fallen a prey to the overlearned Philistines, I should 
not readily come to an end. The reaction has already 
begun ; there are good men and true of a younger 
generation at work on behalf of Goethe the investigator, 
and what is more important than the influence of these 
individuals is the fact that a universal necessity, a 
cultural need that cannot be put aside, is forcing us to 
enter upon the road which Gofethe has pointed out to us 
as the " foreshadowing of a distant ideal," unless we 



136 LEONARDO 

wish to fall into crass barbarism. A leading spirit 
among the living antimetaphysical empirics, Ernst Mach, 
has disclosed what is the next thing to be annihilated, 
and if his object was to serve the ends of a purely 
mechanical barbarism he has not been far out : our 
languages ! In the interest of " science " they are to be 
abolished in order to make room for an abstract inter- 
national language ! 22 The ideal which floats before the 
learned professor is the Chinese system of writing, because, 
being entirely ideographic, it throws overboard all 
ballast of expression of the finer emotions. 23 After that 
grammar and history are to be " laid aside," Add to 
this the simplification of the Alphabet, and supplement 
it with algebraical formulae and chemical symbols, and 
you will have collected together all that Professor Mach 
deems essential in a language. He is not far out. A 
science which only concerns itself with abstract Ghosts, 
is at no single point in contact with life. Goethe's desire, 
by means of his doctrine of colour, parenthetically " to 
enrich language and so facilitate the communication of 
the higher conceptions among the friends of Nature/' 
from this point of view must signify the ne plus ultra of 
folly. And when Mach, in conclusion, expresses the 
hopeful opinion that the English language is in a fair 
way to reach that ideal, we will not ignore the tiny grain 
of truth which has crept into this Hellish dream, worthy 
of one of Breughel's Witches'-sabbaths, and join the 
standard of those who hold no inheritance more sacred 
than that of their mother-tongue. The richer, the more 
illogical, the more incomprehensible a language, the 
better does it hold up the mirror to Nature. The men 
who have attempted to rob us of our language, have, so 
far as in them lay, robbed us of Nature ; has not Lord 
Armstrong taught us that science needs no more than 
the assumption of empty space (vide supra) ? In contra- 
distinction to which the man whose genius was rooted 



LEONARDO 137 

in the sovereign and creative mastery of language, in 
his much-despised teaching of nature followed the one 
object, to give us side by side with his immortal poems 
that which was their one eternal Source, visible, inex- 
haustible Nature with all the wealth of its many forms. 

Goethe, as I said before, did not possess a critically 
analytical consciousness of his new method, and hence 
it is that his judgment as to the relationship between his 
way of investigation and that of true science, is hazy and 
easily misleading. 

Sometimes his insight is clear enough, for example 
when he cites the attraction which in his youthful days 
Spinoza exercised over him, and adds, " the mathematical 
method was the very opposite of my poetical method of 
thought and exposition." This, of course, is a general 
statement ; the mathematical method, dear to the 
Jewish Thinker, seems to Goethe to be in opposition to 
his own poetical method of thought. And yet when we 
come to deal with the special investigation of Nature there 
are passages of decisive import which may be brought 
into court. I select one from the year 1826, which 
possesses the importance of a composition with mathe- 
matics. Goethe writes, " It was not long before I was 
compelled, in deference to my own capabilities and 
relations, to claim the right to view, to investigate, and 
to comprehend Nature in her simplest, most secret 
beginnings as in her highest and most striking creations 
without the co-operation of mathematics. That has 
been my contention through life. Any service that I 
may have rendered in that way is open to all : how it 
may appeal to others remains to be seen." 2 * Is not this 
perfectly clear ? " In deference to my owii capabilities ' 
that points to the capabilities which are " in opposition 
to " Mathematics. And Goethe claims the right to view, 
to investigate, and to comprehend Nature in accordance 
with these capabilities. To view, to investigate, to com- 



138 LEONARDO 

prehend, that is a perfect programme for a personal 
system of Natural Philosophy. Further on in the same 
disquisition Goethe says in so many words that " a new 
point of view justifies new opinions." This recognition 
explains the many passages in which Goethe declares, 
with no trace of bitterness, that his method of contem- 
plating Nature " is incomprehensible to the Professors, 
for the simple reason that they think otherwise " ; it 'is 
in these passages that he confesses in regard to the first 
great congresses of German works on natural history, 
that they furnished nothing which could in the slightest 
degree touch, or move, or excite him, no new encourage- 
ment, no new gift, and this was the man who " for 
fifty years had been passionately devoted to the observa- 
tion of nature " ; for among the German natural scientists 
there was " not one that showed so much as the slightest 
approach to his own way of thinking/' 25 And there are 
other passages which come under this category, in which 
Goethe in his last years, as, for example, in the essay 
on the rodents quoted above instead of as was his wont 
portraying his efforts in the domain of morphology in 
the bright colours of the successful investigators, all at 
once " feels most vividly that his honest endeavours in 
the observation of nature, were only presentiments and 
not pioneering/' All this leaves nothing to be wished 
for in the way of clearness and true insight. In such 
moments Goethe is so fully conscious that he cannot see 
eye to eye with the men of true science, that he claims it 
as a right to dare to investigate in his own way, and 
admits that this way is something which continues to be 
incomprehensible to them, indeed that he is dealing with 
a " new standpoint," with something in the future, 
of which the significance remains half veiled even to 
himself* 

Physics simply do not recognise the fundamental 
ideas of Goethe's Doctrine of Colour. So from the stand- 



LEONARDO 139 

point of physics it is impossible to judge of this theory. 
Goethe starts precisely at the point where Physics leave 
off. It is evidence of a quite superficial appreciation of 
the matter when people go on talking of Goethe's relation 
to Newton and modern Physics, and at the same time 
take no thought of the fact, that these two are entirely 
different. 26 

Unfortunately it is Goethe himself who with the 
utmost impressiveness and vehemence has spoken about 
his so-called relations to Newton, and not to Newton 
alone, but to exact natural science in general* Did you 
remark in the above-quoted solemn declaration the five 
simple words, "without the co-operation of mathe- 
matics " ? That is where the evil fountain of misunder- 
standing still continues to flow. It is not without the 
co-operation of mathematics, but in opposition to mathe- 
matics that Goethe observes, investigates, and compre- 
hends Nature. The mathematical method and Goethe's 
method may run parallel to one another, but can never 
coalesce : no compromise between them is possible : 
they cannot at one time work together and at another 
time without one another. 

One instance will serve better than a hundred to show 
you how deeply this misunderstanding penetrated in 
Goethe's case. One month after that fundamental declara- 
tion in which the practised eye alone can detect the blemish 
of the "without co-operation," he says to Eckermami : 
" surely it is not the mathematicians who invented the 
metamorphosis of plants ? I worked it out without 
mathematics, and the mathematicians have been forced 
to admit it." If these words are correctly reported, they 
are valid proof that we must trust to our own powers in 
order to see clearly in this matter ; Goethe, the herald 
and founder, leaves us in the lurch as to the true under- 
standing of his work. Mathematics and metamorphosis ! 
This would have t>een the place to show that we are 



140 LEQNARDO 

dealing with two dissimilar and irreconcilable subjects 
which nowhere come into contact with one another. The 
first lecture has shown you what was Goethe's idea of 
metamorphosis ; we must admit that, like every human 
acceptation, it implies the conception of Motion; but 
instead of trusting itself like the sailor to the stream, it 
hovers like an eagle in the empyrean from which the 
living hurrying flood is at once Motion and Rest : Motion, 
so far as its law of existence is concerned, Rest as regards 
form. Mathematics (and in a wider sense all true science, 
inasmuch as it everywhere obeys the one impulse to be 
converted into mathematics) have no other power and 
function than the analysis of the condition of Becoming;* 
even that which is at rest they must set free into motion, 
otherwise they have no hold upon it, Goethe's efforts, on 
the contrary, do not tend towards analytical knowledge, 
but towards the most intensive contemplation, " the 
world of the eye," the law of which is not Becoming, but 
Being. That accounts for the peculiar permeation of that 
which is simultaneous and that which is successive which 
has sometimes puzzled us, as indeed it puzzled Goethe him- 
self. For while science, whose whole essence depends upon 
the understanding of cause and effect, recognises Being 
as an almost imaginary point between something which 
has been growing and something which is yet to be, the 
Eye, on the other hand, although not blind to successive 
alterations, can manifestly never perceive the condition 
of progression or process of "Becoming," otherwise 
than as locked up in a condition of Being. This 
will suffice for the moment to show the absurdity of 
Goethe's outcry against the mathematicians. How 
was any mathematician, as such, to discover Meta- 

* There is, so far as I can see, no single English word in common use 
which accurately conveys the meaning of the German Wtrfon as opposed to 
Srin. Werden is the process of Coming into Being i.e. a transition state ; 
Sein is Being i.e. an accomplished fact. I shall translate Wtrdm through- 
out the book as ** Becoming, '* or "coming into being." R. 



LEONARDO 141 

morphosis ? He would have been a poor mathematician. 
Nor do the words, " I discovered this without mathe- 
matics/' hit the nail on the head any better, though 
Goethe rarely fails us in that respect. And as regards 
the closing remark, " they have been forced to admit it," 
that is simply based upon error. Goethe's doctrine of 
metamorphosis has been as much repudiated by Science 
as were his anti-mathematical optics. It may be admitted 
that the repudiation was not so unanimous and immediate, 
but only because in the domain of Biology the complica- 
tion is far greater, so that room is afforded for endless 
misunderstandings. But open any Reliable contemporary 
book on botany, for instance, Julius Sachs* History of 
Botany (chapter 4), and you will find Goethe's doctrine of 
metamorphosis unconditionally refuted. Sachs shows 
how Goethe was continually wavering between fact and 
idea, and he reveals the mischief of which hangers-on 
laid the foundation during long years, while they, instead 
of turning to account the thought of metamorphosis " in 
the deeper sense of idealistic Philosophy/' introduced it 
into exact science, which was impossible without " com- 
bining the highest abstractions with the most careless 
and rawest empiricism, and in a measure with quite false 
observations/' The doctrine of metamorphosis has been 
quite as much a hindrance as a help to the science of the 
nineteenth century. That is the judgment of a scientist 
whose right to be heard cannot be called in question. You 
see how peculiarly connected it is with the words " they 
have been forced to admit it." But the great confusion 
which to this day has existed between Goethe's doctrine 
of metamorphosis and exact science, is due, as I said 
before, to the nature of the subject. All the sciences are 
striving towards mathematics ; yet Biology, in contra- 
distinction to Physics, is still fax from having reached the 
mark. And here we must depend upon a schooling of the 
sense of sight, otherwise the subject will not be seen at 



I 4 2 LEONARDO 

all. We may observe, but we shall not take notice. 
That was why before Goethe's time comparative anatomy 
dragged out a miserable existence ; men like Kaspar 
Friedrich Wolff died unknown. Goethe, with several 
others around him like Camper and Oken, was the first 
powerfully to excite the imagination, and so compelled it 
to take notice of what was seen. Here alone lies the 
significance for science of a doctrine of metamorphosis. 
The whole of Goethe's natural science might be called 
" an introduction to the art of seeing." Nor is that a 
Small thing to say; for phantastic imaginings do not 
teach the art of seeing, but on the contrary lead to those 
false observations which Sachs blamed; on the other 
hand, there is a Something which Goethe by a happy 
inspiration called the " exact phantasy of the senses. 1 ' 27 
This phantasy is as the word describes it something 
felt by the senses, not abstract ; it rests upon very 
accurate Seeing, and the unsurpassable exactness of 
many of Goethe's observations is attested by Miiller and 
Helmholtz, by Virchow and Gegenbaur, by Sachs and 
Ferdinand Cohn ; here, however, exact Phantasy must 
be allied to exact Seeing. Scientific hypotheses all pass 
away, but Goethe's Doctrine of Metamorphosis and 
Doctrine of Colour will never pass away : they stand as 
firmly as the facts which they mirror in Reason. Hence 
the importance of Goethe's ideas in Zoology and Botany. 
Science has used his thoughts as she uses the ophthalmo- 
scope, in order to see into the depths, to discover facts ; 
but, only as tools, not as an organ. It is true that the 
Doctors of the theory of evolution delight in tracing their 
pedigree to Goethe, but that is the innocence of the elderly 
child that would do better to search for an ancestry in 
Moses, Sanchouiathon, Thales, andEmpedodes; venerable 
men who historically would render it better service, and 
are also more in sympathy with its intellectual culture. 
But in order exhaustively to lay bare the relationship 



LEONARDO 143 

between Goethe's conception of Nature by means of the 
" Phantasy of the senses " and the mathematically exact 
Science of Nature, we must avail ourselves of a concrete 
example. For this Optics and the Doctrine of Colour 
must serve our purpose. Naturally it is not possible for 
me here to dive into the mysteries of optics, nor indeed 
would any man be able to give an exposition of Goethe's 
doctrine of colour with . greater brevity than he did him- 
self. That immortal work is all Perception and pure 
Perception ; the least learned of men can study it 
paragraph by paragraph, and see step by step what 
Goethe saw. Here sight and understanding are identical. 
One would imagine that every man would lay hold upon 
it. And since Helmholtz, whom I may well quote here 
as the universally honoured representative of the mathe- 
matical anti-Goethe science, has expressly affirmed, 
" the experiments which Goethe cites in his Doctrine of 
Colour are accurately observed, and vividly described ; 
as to their correctness there is no dispute/* 28 no one who 
might wish to read this forbidden book need tremble for 
his scientific salvation. Exact, correct observations, 
which have moreover earned the praise of a genuine 
university professor as being vividly described, can 
Certainly harm no man. But I know that it is all of no 
use ; no human being can be induced to read the Doctrine 
of Colour. This glorious child of a demi-god is like a 
sleeping Briinnhilde waiting for the dawn of the new 
day which shall bring the hero to awaken her. We can 
therefore only deal with a few -leading principles : that 
however will suffice to enable you to grasp the difference 
between " Nature as Mathematics " and " Nature as 
Exposition," and never again to fall into doubt as to the 
right of the latter to assert its right to a place side by 
side with the former. In this connection Goethe, Leonardo, 
and Kant, each in his own special individuality, will arise 
t>efpj;e y 0tlr e yes. 



144 LEONARDO 

The first paragraph in Helmholtz's Optics consists 
of a definition of light, set forth as follows : " Light is 
looked upon by the majority of physicists as a peculiar 
form of motion of a hypothetical medium, the Light- 
aether ; and we will accept this view of the undulation- 
theory which very fully accounts for all Phenomena." 
Here you have in a nutshell the whole method of mathe- 
matical-mechanical science. The storied words of the 
dying poet, " more light ! " are often cited in and out of 
season. What would our sensitive souls have said if 
Goethe had called out " more special motive-form of the 
hypothetical medium ! " Do not, however, believe that 
with this poor joke I wish to cast ridicule upon the 
optical definition ; no less a man than Ren6 Descartes is 
responsible for the conception that light must be looked 
upon as Motion, and indeed as the motion of an invisible 
medium pervading the universe. It is the acceptation 
of this theory that has made optics the most perfect of 
all sciences : I only wished to call your attention to the 
fact that the first law of all science if science is to be 
exact, is the abolition of that which is visible, or if not 
in so many words of that which is visible, in any case the 
abolition of that which is practically seen, in favour of an 
abstract, mathematically available, altogether unfdt and 
schematic representation. In the same work (p. 268) 
Helmholtz actually reproaches Goethe with the fact that 
" in his studies in natural history he starts upon the 
principle of never abandoning the domain of that which 
is visible to the senses." From the point of view of science, 
then, it is a mistake to dwell upon that which is visible 
to the senses ; for, as Helmholtz goes on to say, " Every 
physical exegesis must rise to the level of all those Forces 
which can naturally never be objects perceptible to the 
senses, but are only objects of the apprehensive under- 
standing." These so-called Forces are purely creatures 
of the imagination ; even the most sober anti-philosophical 



LEONARDO 145 

Science, now admits that they only exist in our heads: 
and for that very reason they are unable to make use of 
the perception of the senses as such, but have to replace 
them by a sensibility of the imagination. 29 What is then 
seen is, as one of the greatest men of genius among the 
physicists, Heinrich Hertz, admits, a delusion from which 
it is impossible to exact " any conformity with things." 30 
The very first step then leads from concrete perception 
to the abstract, and until that has been attained no 
Science is exact. To the oinlearned, to the men of simple 
thoughts, Light would seem to be the most concrete of 
all perceivable things. And yet here you have a definition 
of Light which thrusts aside all perception ; for looked 
at exactly it contains only two propositions, of which the 
one says " Light is Light-aether/' an idea which reminds 
one of the " I am that I am " of Jehovah, and must be 
dealt with by the logicians ; while the second adds the 
assertion that " Light is motion." Now since the most 
cursory reflection has already sufficed to teach us that 
the conception of Nature as Motion is an irrefutable 
requisite of the human intellect, that is to say that it is 
not a law of Nature but of our brain, and inasmuch as 
Leonardo as a keen thinker even in his day recognised the 
justice of this principle, it follows that the above 
definition is neither more nor less than an universal 
metaphysical postulate. Since then, as you know, 
certain leading Physicists have also declared against the 
hypothetical medium, the aether, as superfluous. In 
their minds Light is nothing but abstract motion in 
empty space* 

But now let us, please, read a little further in Helm- 
holtz. We come to the Scheme. As Kant acutely re- 
marked, " The subjective principle of Nature precedes the 
objective, the combination precedes that which is com- 
bined." That " which is complex must be supplied by 
ourselves/' for we can investigate " only that which we 






146 LEONARDO 

have ourselves supplied." Now in optics we supply a 
great deal. 31 

Following the advice of Helmholtz, let us attempt to 
represent the " peculiar form of motion of the hypo- 
thetical medium " with the help of a wet thread which 
we shall hold in our fingers and allow to 
hang down freely, moving to and fro. 

Here you see the diagram ; the line from 
A to B is the thread when not in motion ; 
' C ' so the tiny particles of Light-aether follow 
\ one another in a straight line so long as 

\ they are not in motion : and here the 
/ o * dotted line shows you how the so-called 
; waves behave as soon as a particle of 

aether begins to rock backwards and for- 
wards at the top point A. And what is 
the reason of the movements of this same 
particle ? Here again we have something 
peculiar, Helmholtz writes, " exactly as 
C 2 the movement of the single particles of 
the thread takes place, so would be the 
movement of a succession of aether-part- 
^z icles along which a ray of light should 
/ transmit itself." If then we have above 
received a definition of Light containing 
nothing more than the abstract admission 
that Light is motion, the Light-ray is at 
once introduced as an hypostasis trans- 
*~* mitting itself along the particles of 

Light-aether, and so causing their motion. And whilst 
light is, according to the definition, a movement of waves, 
the Light-ray is, according to the mathematical definition, 
" a perpendicular line." Here we seem to have got into 
something like a witches' caldron 1 Let us just imagine 
that the sun is at noon : the world is steeped in light ; 
how many rays are we to reckon there ? Certainly more 



/ 
/ 
/ 

/ 

'I 
\ 
\ 
\ 
\ 



LEONARDO 147 

than you would see in the halo of a Byzantine Madonna's 
head. Does this raise a smile ? And yet here is no joke, 
but your faith is bespoken for the following proposition : 
" we can in such cases consider the movement of the 
particles of aether inside a ray approximately as an 
isolated mechanical Whole, progressing independently of 
the movements of the neighbouring rays." You perceive 
that the rays are an altogether material conception. 
The possibility that innumerable rays running side by 
side do not take up the lateral movements of the aether- 
particles, so that for the very superabundance of light- 
rays there is no light, is a question which you must settle 
for yourselves, for to that Physics afford no answer. If 
we had the wave-movement alone, or the rectilinear 
movement alone (which latter movement laid the founda- 
tion of the whole optics of Newton who knew nothing of 
any wave-movement), then in that case our power of 
conception would at least possess a possible illusion ; 
but to our mathematical Physics both conceptions are 
indispensable : Light is a rectilinear movement which 
does not spread itself like sound in all directions, and in 
spite of that Light is at the same time a wave, or un- 
dulatory movement. It is only by the conjunction of 
these two contradictory hypotheses that all phenomena 
can be exhaustively and mathematically reduced to a 
Scheme- The great mathematician d'Alembert calls 
attention to the fact that the so-called " cloudlessness " 
of Mathematics really only holds good where they deal 
with the wholly Abstract, but that the richer the evidence 
of the senses to which you apply them, the darker become 
the conceptions upon which you base their operations. 82 
You see here how true are his words. Mathematical 
Physics are practical, useful, infallible, grand, bewildering 
I would gladly grant their right to all the laudatory 
Predicates in the Dictionary, with one exception, 
dear. Whoever in agreement with d'Alembert searches 



148 LEONARDO 

into their foundations, will find them obscure. When 
Goethe wished to lay before a friend a few ideas con- 
cerning light he began by storming against the unhappy 
conception of the Rays. " There is absolutely no question 
of Rays, they are an abstraction invented to explain 
the phenomenon in its greatest simplicity, an abstraction 
worked up, built upon, or rather piled up, until the whole 
matter at last became muddled into incomprehensibility." 
But let us leave the so-called Rays and return to our 
Waves, only following the exposition so far until we meet 
a practical conception clear to the senses, so as to justify 
the belief that we are floating down from the cloudy 
Olympus of hypothetical constructions, and are setting 
foot upon the solid ground of empirics. 

And here I would crave your attention : the time has 
come for us, as Kant taught us, " to supply the syn- 
thesis/' In proportion as I move the thread more or 
less violently, so the serpentine line which it forms in the 
air will show greater or lesser curves ; in the same way 
the aether-particles in the Light-aether, in proportion to 
the violence of their motion, will deviate more or less 
from their original position, in other words, the Waves 
will be higher or lower : this variation in the height of 
the Waves is known as the Amplitude of Wave-motion. 
Besides the height of the Waves their length has to be 
taken into consideration. The distance between a 1 and 
a 2 , from wave-crest to wave-crest, or from b 1 to b 2 , from 
wave-valley to wave-valley, may vary in length : that is 
called the Wave-length. Thirdly, the movement of each 
aether-particle, which can be imagined as rocking to and 
fro, may take place with varying speed : that is called 
the Duration of oscillation. Pray hold fast to the con- 
ception that we must admit in these Waves a varying 
height, length, and duration of oscillation. And inas- 
much as thought, as the saying goes, pays no duty, we 
may besides all this assume various directions of motion; 



LEONARDO 149 

Once more let us consider the wet thread. I can move 
my hand from right to left and from left to right, and then 
the single particles of the string which is curving into 
waves will also move rectilinearly to and fro ; the same 
holds good with the aether-particles ; in this case we say 
that the light is " rectilinearly polarised." But just as I 
move my hand rectilinearly from left to right, I might 
equally move it in a right line to and fro from front to 
back; I must therefore assume at least two directions 
of oscillation, and indeed might, if necessary, assume 
as many more as I please ; in the simplest case we 
speak of two perpendicular directions of waves mutually 
polarised. Again, I might move my hand in a circle or 
in an ellipse. In that case the single particle of the string 
would, instead of a straight line, describe a circular line, or 
an elliptic line from one wave-crest to another, or from 
one wave-valley to the next : here too we must assume 
the same of the Light-aether particles ; in the one case 
we speak of circular polarised light, in the other of 
elliptic polarised light. There are several other com- 
plications, but for our present purpose this is sufficient. 
We can therefore conceive waves of varying ampli- 
tude (that is to say height), waves of different length, 
waves of different duration of oscillation, waves recti- 
linearly polarised, perpendicularly polarised in opposition, 
circularly polarised, and elliptically polarised. But now 
I have to make a last and highest demand upon your 
imagination. Represent to yourselves all these differences 
with all their various prepositions as before, "with," "in," 
" upon," etc. high waves and low waves, short and long, 
swift and slow in their oscillations, in endless gradations, 
pressing upon one another in all directions, arid in 
addition the aether-particles in various straight lines, 
and also working through each other in circles and 
ellipses : and then do you know what you have arrived 
at ? Why, the Natural Light of the Physicists, as the 



150 LEONARDO 

sun, the candle, the match brings it into existence 1 
This again is a serious matter. Cross-examine Helmholtz : 
he will furnish you with information. " Natural light," 
he writes, " is a uniform compound of all sorts of differ- 
ently polarised Light/' moreover, " it contains wave- 
features of an endless number of continually intermingling 
values of oscillatory duration/' 

It seems to me that we have fairly carried out Kant's 
behests as to ourselves supplying the synthesis. Yet I 
must here insert a remark. Nothing would be more un- 
justifiable than to ridicule this Scheme of the physicists, 
far rather would I with complete confidence vote with 
Kant that such intellectual constructions are " the pride 
of human reason." It is only by degrees that the mon- 
strous complexity of the illusion established itself, as 
new phenomena, which it was necessary to incorporate in 
the one great Scheme, gradually became known ; new 
ones have cropped up since Helmholtz's time : as for 
instance the Rontgen Rays, which compelled the con- 
clusion that the oscillations do not only take place 
perpendicularly to the direction of transmission, but 
also parallel to it ; that is to say as if we were not only 
to move our wet thread to and fro rectilinearly and in a 
circular line, but also from top to bottom and conversely 
from bottom to top, not only therefore in the direction 
of floor and ceiling, but also in the direction of the room's 
walls. There will always be new additional matter 
coming to the front, until in the end the Scheme of 
Undulation will become useless by reason of its growing 
and alarming complication, and then some genius will 
enrich us with a new Image which will combine Light, 
radiating energy, chemical agency, electricity, magnetism, 
in one single practical scheme paving the way for new 
discoveries. The new theory is already at hand, widely 
developed, only lacking as yet a presentation as Image.* 8 
Enthusiastic admiration is the due of those men who like 



LEONARDO 151 

Democritus and Descartes and Kant endow the human 
brain with such schematic and creative illusions ; and 
unquestionable recognition is the meed of those men of 
exact Science who, like Newton and Helmholtz, by their 
scorn of fatigue, their gift of observation, acuteness, 
power of sensitiveness, and talent, not only enrich the 
treasury of knowledge, adding to the already existing 
thoughts of genius which they have inherited, but also 
render to mankind services of imperishable value. One 
need only think of the ophthalmoscope ! The deprecia- 
tion of exact science, as we meet with it here and there 
in the works of various fanatics and obscurantists, makes 
one so indignant because it denies manifest demonstrable 
services which every lamp-cleaner can see even if he 
cannot understand them ; whereas the depreciation of 
philosophy and art is pardonable where it is due to 
stupidity or faulty education. We must have no mis- 
understanding upon this point. The one thing against 
which I defend myself is this, that an invisible church 
served by a priesthood of narrow-minded, arrogant, and 
intolerant professors, who under the honourable title of 
" learned " enjoy a quite unjustified respect, since 
learning and power of judgment by no means of necessity 
go hand in hand 34 that these enemies of nature, this 
tribe of fanatics should seize upon my understanding 
even in childhood, should annihilate its healthy power of 
observation, should hold in a scientific vice its healthy 
thought, and compel my belief in silly dogmas with a 
tyranny more cruel than the tribunal of the Inquisition. 
There is no need for me to believe in God : it matters 
little whether I am a morally strong, energetic, and free 
man : but if I refuse to believe in the hypothetical 
medium, the waves that are rays and the rays that are 
waves, in the amplitudes and oscillations and polarisations 
and such abominations, together with the descent of man 
from apes and of pes from jelly-fish, then I am outside 



152 LEONARDO 

the pale. Heinrich Hertz gives a striking example with 
reference to our modern Physics. A piece of iron lies 
upon the table. Why does this iron not fly into the air, 
or pierce the table in order to fall to the ground, or burst 
asunder into millions of atoms ? Just as in the case of 
Light, physics here set out such innumerable so-called 
" forces/' all of them busily at work dragging the piece 
of iron hither and thither, that a mathematician would 
have to work for weeks before he could give a scientifically 
plausible proof that the piece of iron is really lying 
peacefully upon the table. Hertz writes, " But the truth 
is that all powers are so compensated as against one 
another, that the whole arsenal of them comes to nothing : 
that in spite of a thousand causes of motion which are 
present, no motion takes place : that the iron just remains 
quiet. If we lay these conceptions before unprejudiced 
thinkers, who will believe us ? Whom shall we convince 
that we are talking of something real and not of the 
hallucinations of an extravagant imagination ? " 35 We 
may accept the power of imagination of science even 
though it becomes extravagant ; but that we should 
sacrifice our independence, our reason, our phantasy 
nourished at the fountain of perception, and lay it upon 
the altar of this Goddess of Abstraction, that is some- 
thing that we must fight against with might and main 
before it is too late, before this scientific barbarism shall 
have plunged us into the darkness of night. 

But we had proposed to ourselves to follow the course 
of the exegesis of Physics until we should at last reach 
something real and tangible, and not a mere imaginary 
perception. And here on the very page where there is all 
this talk of waves and polarisations, a little lower down a 
well-known idea beams upon me. I see the word Colour /' 
and what do I read ? " the most striking peculiarity by 
which Light of varying oscillatory duration distinguishes 
itself is Colour." 36 The unprejudiced thinker to whom 



LEONARDO 153 

Heinrich Hertz appealed will at first, as it seems to me, 
be staggered by this. Colour is oscillatory duration ? 
Yet there is no mistake ; for here is the definition : 
"when every aether-particle in the motion of light 
always, over and over again, follows the same course at 
the same time and at the same speed, then the Light is 
called simple, monochromatic, or homogeneous." The 
unprejudiced thinker is more and more puzzled. He 
remembers that to the Physicist Light and Visibility have 
absolutely no common signification ; in every ray of 
Natural Light the Physicist detects a great quantity of 
" Unseen Light " there is the ultra-violet and the 
infra-red (or ultra-red) : it follows that every wave must 
have its colour, a colour which no human eye can see. 
What is colour outside of the circle of Red, Yellow, 
Green, Blue ? What is an invisible Colour ? Neither a 
perception nor a conception in any way possible. Besides 
this, Physics are compelled, as we have seen, to premise 
that there exists a boundless number of continually 
interchanging values of oscillatory duration : this 
claim, raised in a somewhat different form by Newton, 
who admitted an endless number of material light- 
corpuscules, cannot be denied by any one who is possessed 
of the elements of mathematical Physics ; now the physi- 
cists reckon the number of oscillations in the deepest red 
at 400 billions in the second, and in the brightest violet at 
about 800 billions : according to the definition of the 
physicists, therefore, there must be within the visible 
spectrum some 400 billions of different colours. In 
truth, however, in theory as in practice, we can well do 
with the acceptation of four primitive colours, as Leonardo 
has shown in many passages ; many people, Helmholtz 
among the number, have thought it sufficient to dis- 
tinguish three colours. 87 Besides this there is no relation- 
ship between the accepted number of oscillations and the 
order of progression of the colours : the numbers rise by 



154 LEONARDO 

a hundred billions and you are still in the Red; on 
the other hand, a few beggarly billions, perhaps ten or 
twelve, suffice to lead you out of the loveliest green 
into the darkest blue. It is a still greater tax upon 
you that you should believe that Red and Violet, two 
colours that so imperceptibly merge into one another 
that no art can draw a line between them, are the 
extreme opposites of one another, the one called into 
being by the slowest of all oscillations, the other by 
the absolute fastest. Again, spectral analysis has taught 
us that flames which present exactly the same colour to 
the eye consist of rays which occupy a totally different 
place in the Spectrum, and must therefore, according 
to the Physicists, correspond with different numbers of 
oscillations. s 8 

I might go on for half an hour upon this subject ; for 
so soon as mathematical physics tread upon the domain 
of colours, we wade up to our mouths in the thick slime 
of impossibilities and irreconcilable contradictions. As, 
however, I am not prepared to go minutely into this 
matter, and as it is nevertheless my duty to convince you 
that it is no private opinion of my own which is forcing 
itself upon you, but that I am expounding undeniable 
facts, I should wish to recommend to you an excellent 
Kompendium der Physik, of which I made special use 
in my student days : it is comprehensive, clear, and 
strictly scientific. 89 In the first lines of page 536 you 
will find these words, " our eye distinguishes different 
colours, which originate in the fact that the number of 
oscillations which strike our eye in the same unit of time 
is different," Now does not that give the impression of 
a perfectly concrete, reliable fact ? The Dogma, like the 
credo in the catechism, comes first. Then the honest 
author brings forward a whole string of considerations, 
which are certainly not meant as objections, for that 
Colours are oscillations is a Dogma Cursed be he 



LEONARDO 155 

who would look upon the sacrosanct oscillations as a 
mere scheme for calculation ! but these very considera- 
tions compel the author to a confession which you will 
find on the last line of the same page, " Hence the per- 
ception of colour must be looked upon as a purely physio- 
logical fact for which physics have no further explanation." 
Thus in the first line the physicists* explanation of our 
perception of colour is given in concise language, and in 
the last line comes the confession that physics can give 
no possible explanation of the fact of the sense of colour. 
If we are to bring the two assertions into harmony we 
must premise that the Physicist makes a distinction 
between colour and the perception of colour. If he is 
speaking of colour, the word means no more to him than 
an epithetum ornans for " duration of oscillation/' there 
exists no interdependence between Colour and Eye, 
colour is an objective physical phenomenon ; he talks 
quite calmly of rays which are sensitive to red, not made 
sensitive by red as if every wave-length wore its own 
livery ; 40 but so soon as his Physics take the eye into 
consideration the whole artificial thought -phantom 
collapses. Light, the whole fabric of waves, of rays, and 
of polarisations, all is well and good until it clashes 
with the human retina ; but as for colour, there your 
hitherto all-powerful juggler must confess himself beaten : 
here is a sensation which. his physics will not help him 
to explain, and now comes the physiologist whom he 
himself called in, and if the physiologist is like Johaimes 
Miiller, a true philosophical spirit, he will tell the physicist, 
" with the exception of the purely optical mathematical 
definitions upon the subject of elementary motions, your 
doctrines all rest upon the most obvious contradictions : 
Light is energy of the senses, and colour is an affection, 
of the optic nerve/' 41 

We need go no further. We have reached the core of 
the matter. If you had already studied Kant, a word 



156 LEONARDO 

would have sufficed, and you would be able to survey 
the whole lie of the land, as one looks down from a lofty 
mountain peak upon the structure of the country below. 
That is the point to which you must be led, and you must 
once more be guided to an understanding of Kant before 
you have had the opportunity of studying the philosopher 
himself. 

Stand at the windows of this room and look out ! 
What do you see ? The green of the meadows, the blue 
of Heaven, the yellow of the corn, the white of the snow 
mountains, and the grey of the clouds. All colour ! The 
whole of your Seeing consists in a Seeing of Colours ; the 
conception Light is an abstract one, it is a collective 
name for all Colours, For if you consider the sources of 
light, such as the sun, the stars, and the flames and lamps 
which we use for the production of Light, they are in 
reality generators of Colour. Light without colour would 
be a contradictio in adjecto. Indeed, there is no such thing 
in existence as a white light. If a source of light appears 
to us as white, it is only a question of relative brilliancy, 
or else it is owing to the absence of any object of com- 
parison. The old-fashioned street lamps of oil appeared 
to be of a deep orange-red colour when the gas lamps 
were near them : gas flames are orange-coloured, in- 
candescent lamps red, incandescent gaslight that seems 
so dazzlingly white is blue when seen near powerful arc 
lights. 42 Whatever the eye takes in is Colour : every- 
where Colour. And even white and black, notwith- 
standing that the careful observer is obliged to consider 
them as something special which he cannot without 
further elucidation put into the same category with the 
other colours, and though optical analysis teaches us 
that no active light contains them, still will be regarded 
by every independent thinker, as something related to 
dolour as something positive. White is just as much as 
black a privatione de colori ; physically it is the result of 



LEONARDO 157 

every exact mixture of two antagonistic colours, for 
instance, of yellow and blue, or of red and green, because 
the one visual impression cancels the other. It is im- 
possible for us even to think of anything absolutely 
devoid of Colour ; it would simply become at once in- 
visible. But I would not have you believe that I am 
trying to prove Light to be a mere cobweb of the brain. 
That would be nothing but sophistry. But in the same 
way as out of the experience of various tones I construct 
for myself the idea " Sound," which thenceforth assumes 
consistency, and under which all the phenomena which 
the sense of hearing perceives may practically and theo- 
retically be gathered together, so out of the experiences 
of my eye which one and all can never assume any other 
form than that of Colour, because every affection of 
the nerves of the eye is Colour, I abstract the universal 
conception of " Light," and if the expression " abstract " 
should seem too strong, remember I am developing no 
system, and am not weighing my words in a scale we 
will substitute the word " derive "the conception of 
Light is a thought derived from the perceptions of 
Colours. Do not run away with the idea that these are 
hair-splittings ; rather are we dealing with a real dis- 
tinction, with a distinction which the slightest reflection 
makes clear, and once made clear, may of itself suffice to 
render impossible the eternal confusion between the 
mathematical optics of the Physicists and the doctrine 
of Colour of Goethe, which rests upon a close observation 
of the perceptions of our sight. Colours are a rock against 
which not even the force of a Hercules can prevail. We 
can neither add to nor detract anything from the concep- 
tion of red and blue ; and moreover they defy any 
attempt at definition. As Descartes says in his simple 
language : En vain nous definitions ce que c'est que le 
Umc pour le faire comprendre a celui qui ne verrait 
absolument rien, tandis que pour le connaftre il ne faut 



158 LEONARDO 

qu'ouvrir les yeuoc ei voir du blanch The conception 
" Colour " possesses no comprehensible element ; it is, 
to speak physiologically, pure energy of the senses, and 
to speak philosophically it is a sensation and empirical 
perception. Light, on the contrary, is a matter of com- 
prehension : in this case the understanding meditates 
upon material afforded to it by the senses, and for that 
reason the circle of this comprehension is uncertain and 
unstable : it even lies in our power to widen it or contract 
it. Under examination you would probably hold Light 
and Visibility to be the same, and Goethe's startling 
assertion that Light and the Eye are one and the same, 44 
would at once charm you as a sound truth : yet, as you 
have seen, to Physics the conception of an invisible 
Light therefore of a day that is night is familiar, and 
science for the moment finds itself at a critical point 
where a new extension is gradually being acquired by this 
already widened conception, and not only invisible 
visibility, but Light which is not Light is accepted within 
the circle. For we are so far on the road towards com- 
prehending in one united idea the phenomena of Light 
with those of electricity, of magnetism, and other mole- 
cular phenomena. This thought is not so new as the 
gentlemen of the Press, upon whom the modern world 
depends for its culture, imagine. You might almost say 
that it is seen as a germ in Plato's Timaios, and at any 
rate Descartes saw it floating before him, even though 
the phenomena of electricity were too little known in his 
time for him to entertain more than something like a 
general presentiment upon the subject. Herder, in the 
2nd chapter of the 5th book of his I&een, makes mystical 
allusions to the Identity of Light, ^ther, the Warmth of 
Life, allusions which have no scientific value, but which 
show how near the same thought was to him. Kant, 
however, in an earlier writing (1763), says, " There are 
strong reasons for presuming that the expansion of 



LEONARDO 159 

bodies by warmth, Light, electric power, thunder- 
storms, perhaps also the power of magnetism, may be 
various manifestations of one and the same energetic 
matter which is distributed in all space, namely of the 
aether." 45 And in his last unfinished work, he had very 
accurately served as pioneer to the modern theory, by 
the hypothetical acceptation of his " material of Heat 
or Light/' as a universal primitive movens.** This idea 
is one which it is no longer possible to lay aside, and 
if we then claim for Light that it is a " peculiar form of 
motion " of the electric waves, or for Electricity that it 
is a " peculiar form of motion " of the Light-aether, that 
is bonnet Uanc, blanc bonnet, and is decided by practical 
considerations or arbitrarily. The conception Light is 
either so extended that visibility only becomes one 
phenomenon among many, or so contracted that Light 
itself only forms one special case inside a greater complex 
of molecular phenomena of movement. The various 
Colours, red, green, blue, yellow, orange, black, and 
white, on the contrary, remain what they have been 
from the beginning of time : on the one hand something 
entirely objective, a perception grasped by the under- 
standing which no thought could have generated, but 
only the practical sensation caused by the objeci, and 
at the same time entirely and utterly subjective in so far 
as Colour lies altogether in my eye, and is an expression 
of my purely personal relation to the object. Since then 
Light possesses the elasticity of all that is thought, 
Colour is an immovable phenomenon firmly wedged in 
between Object and Subject, coyly rejecting any arbitrary 
handling. 

You now know exactly why our exact science has had 
such noble successes in the investigation of Light, whereas 
its dealings with Colour have led to such a jumble of 
impossibilities and contradictions, that the world is 
puzzled and the specialists who have any literary scholar- 



160 LEONARDO 

ship begin to look up to Goethe as to a " Paradise Lost/' 47 
The conception Light is from the first derivative, inferen- 
tial, the child of our human brain, torn away before its 
time from its mother, the perception of the senses, and 
so we may deal with it as may seem good to us. Not, be 
it noted, in the sense that would allow us to invent or to 
ignore experiences or to turn them upside down, but in 
the sense that we should guide our experiences from the 
outset on the road which they should follow in order to 
reach the arsenal of our Knowledge. That is the " supply- 
ing of synthesis " of which Kant spoke. The changes 
with which the Scheme has from time to time to put up, 
are but adjustments to facts which cannot be forced into 
the chosen road. Thus Newton's idea of Light as motion 
differs from that of Descartes, Huyghens', again, from 
that of Newton, Young's from that of Huyghens ; and 
here again we are brought face to face with deep-reaching 
changes. In this connection it is neither the most philo- 
sophical intellect nor the powerfully seeing Eye that will 
work with the greatest success, but the man who like 
Newton, gifted with the greatest aptitude for mathematical 
combination, possesses into the bargain the sure instinct 
for the practical adaptation of what he sees to that which 
is abstract and capable of calculation. John Locke long 
ago made the remark that Newton's greatness consisted 
in tlie discovery of intermediate ideas. 48 As an observer 
of nature, Newton is not worthy to loosen the latchet of 
Descartes' shoe. Descartes' inspired thought of the move- 
ment of a propagating medium was too lofty for him, he 
could not conceive of Light otherwise than as matter 
thrown out by luminous bodies ; and his eye was so inno- 
cently unsophisticated that he felt compelled, two hundred 
years after Leonardo, to hold fast to the biblical number 
seven in relation to colours, and in his remarks about the 
colours of shadows, fell into blunders about contrasting 
colours and the like, which any decent student of Painting 



LEONARDO 161 

in Italy could have pointed out to him. And so his painting 
theory of emission with his doctrine of colour has gone 
the way of all manifest falsehood (not to say absurdity), 
and at the same time his whole conception of Light, 
including what was imagination and what was perception, 
tumbled to pieces. And then what remained ? Why do 
we all honour Newton as an immortal investigator ? 
In the first place there remained the calculations of one 
of the most marvellous masters of figures in the world's 
history, of an intellect specially incomparable in com- 
binations ; for Newton is an unerring teacher when he 
remains within his own mathematical domain, the 
domain of observation peculiar to the human under- 
standing: all that lay to the right and to the left of 
these calculations, the thoughts which gave birth to them, 
the perceptions to the explanation of which they were 
directed, all might be false, but the calculations them- 
selves were none the less correct. The next point is that 
Newton not only employed calculations which never can 
be upset, but that his intellect proved to be true in 
everything which might even indirectly be calculable, 
especially in the invention and ordering of experiments 
having for their aim the reference of phenomena to 
movements capable of analysis. For example, the 
phenomenon of Colours, as to which Leonardo had 
made such keen observations, had no meaning for him. 
Never would he, like Goethe, have been led on the 
path of science by the sight of an aquamarine landscape 
with a purple sky in the snow country : the great 
Colour-phenomena of nature, the blue of Heaven, the 
green of the thicket, the white of the snow are all 
emblems of rest : Newton hardly saw them. But, on 
the other hand, he did remark in his dealings with optical 
glasses, that if you press one glass surface against another 
phenomena of Colour arise. Here Colour stood in 
relationship to motion, and to a measurable manifestation 

I. M 



162 LEONARDO 

of power : here Colour must be pressed into the service 

in order that it should give birth to mathematical 

Physics ! In Newton we have to deal with a mode of 

sight which is practical and also at the same time intuitive, 

on account of which, even as a contradictory contrast, it 

may be placed in a parallel line with the method of seeing 

of the artistic genius. That is why Newton's calculations 

remained a great generative principle for future science ; 

that is to say, what he created not its theory, but its 

practical ideas, and that implies the setting out of a 

number of points of contact between the mechanism of 

human thought and the mechanism of nature, the 

inventive achievement of an abstract artist. This side 

of the Newtonian intellect, and this alone, it is to 

which the word " genius *' applies, for here we see 

intuition and a bold combination of elements lying far 

apart. This recognition of the incomparable importance 

of Newton has been expressed in poetry by Albrecht voii 

Haller, the great investigator of Nature, when he says that 

he " Find't die Natur im Werk und scheint sie selbst zu 

meistern" finds nature at work and seems himself to 

master her. 49 To master Nature ! that is not only the 

goal, but also the method of exact science, which shrinks 

from no violence of thought ! Thus, for example, Newton's 

theory of gravitation rests upon two directly irrational 

assumptions, empty space and forces working at a 

distance :* and it strides away over every observation of 

the senses, as we have just seen in the case of Colours : 

with this intent it builds for itself a kingdom, a kingdom 

of its own, in which observation of the senses has 

no place, which is at once quite abstract and quite 

practical. 

This contrast leads us at once to a clear view of what 
Goethe's natural investigation strove for : a kingdom of 
that which is purely seen and unconditionally true. The 

* Forces working at a distance : e.g. the moon acting upon the ocean. 



LEONARDO 163 

two methods are diametrically opposed to one another. 
They take up no challenge : there would be no need for 
them to fight, if it were not that passion is apt to take 
the place of insight : indeed, the one might consciously 
help on the other, which so far has only occurred involun- 
tarily here and there ; above all, it would be necessary 
that all men of culture should as clearly recognise the 
relation, as the relation itself is clear- 
But before applying all this to the understanding of 
Goethe, I must say one word more. For sufficient reasons 
I have in this lecture hitherto only incidentally alluded 
to Kant, yet as a matter of fact it is he who has been 
my guide : it is to 'him that you owe any intelligence 
that you may have gained. To show this more accurately 
would require a too minute enquiry into pure philosophy. 
Still, I should be loath to conclude this consideration of 
Exact Science without having, at least aphoristically, 
made two points, first to prove how correctly Kant 
grasped the essence of Science, and secondly how un- 
deniably Science itself, insensibly and involuntarily, bears 
witness to the truth of his philosophy. 

From what I have already said you know how devoted 
Kant was to Science, subordinated to the exact method 
of mathematics ; how entirely he was at one with 
Leonardo in the belief that that alone was vera scientia, 
and that nulla certezza was to be found except under its 
sovereign rule ; you would therefore not suspect that he 
could possibly wish to degrade it. In one monumental 
sentence he gathers together all that we have been 
learning about it, and I should like you once for all to 
impress that sentence upon your memories, because in it 
he is laying down something that hardly any man knows, 
and yet which we all need to know. " Physics are the 
investigation of Nature, not by experience, but oh behalf 
of experience." Here we have the essence and the value 
of exact science enunciated a&d defined. I take it that 



164 LEONARDO 

after what has gone before any commentary is super- 
fluous. Your own knowledge now bears witness that 
Kant is right. But if the wisest heads amongst us are in 
doubt about it, if they go on confusing method and 
matter, if they imagine that it is by experience that they 
have laid it down as a law that colours are " a varying 
number of oscillations of aether," whereas all these 
putative oscillations are, lock, stock, and barrel, only a 
method " on behalf of experience/' that is to say, a method 
invented to widen the domain of experience, but not a 
method for coming nearer to what is experienced by so 
much as an inch : then there arises the lamentable 
confusion by which we are now surrounded, and by 
which that principle of our being, which may be described 
as the innocent, the feminine, the receptive, and the 
parturient principle, namely Perception, is cruelly im- 
perilled. 

I will say no more about this at present. Even if 
Kant is here only speaking of Physics, you know that aU 
science of necessity strives after Physics and so this 
method of investigation, not " through " but " on behalf 
of " experience, forces its way even into those sciences 
which are still at pains to tear themselves away from the 
matter of experience. For example, the essence and 
value of Darwinism consists in the fact that this doctrine 
revealed a method on behalf of experience. Darwin, 
like Newton, did not see clearly, and still less did he 
think deeply ; his, like Newton's, was a practical inventive 
intellect, utterly without reference to Nature, and that 
is why the success of his labours was an enormous addition 
to the matter of experience. 50 We shall return to this in 
a later lecture. 

And now one more word about the way in which the 
whole history of our exact sciences bears witness on 
behalf of Kant. We are indeed standing upon the 
highest peak of a metaphysical mountain ; I wish to 



LEONARDO 165 

make just a tiny rift in the mist which shrouds every 
man who has not yet grasped the thought of Kant, I 
wish just to open out a little streak of the blue sky, and 
by way of commentary to bring into play not Abstraction, 
but the practical history of our sciences. 

Democritus, up to whose time the philosophers had 
regarded the original characteristics of matter as quali- 
tative, looked upon the " Qualitative " as being really 
quantitative. That was a bold stroke, but it was a bold 
stroke which made Science possible. It was from him 
that Newton took the two important conceptions of the 
Atoms and Empty Space. Once admit that everything 
must be Quantity, then, in order that it may have form 
everything must be Motion : hence these two supposi- 
tions. This method of investigating " on behalf of 
experience," is called the Mechanical Method. Inside 
the same frame another method stands in opposition to 
it, the Dynamic : this was founded by Descartes, pre- 
ferred by Kant, introduced by Faraday into Physics in 
opposition to the Newtonian conceptions, and Heinrich 
Hertz was intending to establish it in extenso when he 
was snatched away by death. It is the method of the 
more profound thinkers among the investigators of the 
exact school, which makes havoc of the absurdities of 
the mechanistic views. In this dynamic method a space 
jBlled without a gap is presupposed in which not hyposta- 
sised forces acting in empty space, but displacements, 
are the cause of all motion, and since experience is in- 
sufficient to make the calculation correspond, invisible 
masses and unseen movements have been invented in 
aid. 51 Outside these two methods there is no possible 
mathematical interpretation of Nature. 52 The exclusive 
stress laid upon Motion is common to both. But what is 
it that motion presupposes ? Time and Space, nothing 
else. Space for the " outer sense," Time for the " inner 
sense." And yet there is ,a third presumption : for " in 



166 LEONARDO 

Space, taken as such, there is nothing movable/' and 
" It is not Time itself that changes, but that which Time 
contains/' In order then to be able to speak of Motion 
we require, outside of Space and Time, " the perception 
of a presence and of the succession, or consecutive order- 
ing, of its rules, consequently of Experience," If then 
we follow up the history of our exact sciences, whether 
we build upon Mechanism or Dynamism, we discover 
that it is their principle to adopt a minimum in the 
matter of Experience. Time and Space, with Motion as 
third : for anything more they have no use. They 
remove from Experience everything which has no 
reference to Time and Space, and consequently cannot 
be brought into any relationship to Motion. The sense 
of the colour red, of the colour blue, is certainly Experi- 
ence, but it is not the Experience of a " consecutive 
ordering." Blue is blue, blue is not red and even if I 
construct for myself a scale of colour, it still hardly 
possesses a greater value than does the idea of the meta- 
morphosis of the bones of the vertebrae. For this con- 
ception of colour and of the scale of colour has nothing 
to do with Space, and contains no imaginable relation to 
Time, and so affords not the slightest point for mathe- 
matics to lay hold on. The Physicist therefore starts not 
from Colour but from Light, and even that he only 
seizes hold of where it suits him. The mirroring of out- 
lines, the refraction of images, e.g. when seen in water ; 
that is his starting-point, and indeed because there are 
here angles, and therefore something capable of measure- 
ment and calculation. The so-called Dioptrics, or science 
of refraction, preceded the mathematical theory of 
colours by a century : Kepler founded it in 1604, Newton's 
experiments upon the " Colours of Light " appeared in 
1704. It then became a point to discover some relation- 
ship between refraction and colour^ You can easily 
obtain a simple and correct idea of the nature of Newton's 



LEONARDO 167 

work with the prism in the interests of this discovery. 
If you construct a light-tight box, and make a hole in it 
with a fine needle, you will obtain on a photographic 
plate, if placed at the right distance, a beautifully sharp 
picture of the whole landscape. If in the same way you 
catch a so-called Ray of the Sun, then you will obtain a 
picture of the sun. But if you enter the camera obscura 
yourself, and draw this Ray through a prism, projecting 
the broken Light upon a screen, you will no longer see 
the picture, for it is ruined past recognition, but in its 
place you will see colours, and those colours will be in a 
fixed consecutive series. That this experiment does not 
carry us very deep into the essence of colour, as colour, 
is shown by what follows : you saw, just now, how 
lamentably the Physicist fails as soon as he reaches the 
point where colour really exists, that is to say, the Eye ; 
but that troubles him little ; for his principle is, as we 
have seen, to give a minimum of importance to experi- 
ence: he does not work "through" experience, but 
" on behalf of " it : and now he has what he wants : the 
Colours at vhich he could in no other way arrive are 
brought into relative position in space fixed by law, that 
is to say into a geometrical consecutive progression, and 
that again means geometrical Motion ; and so he can 
also measure and calculate. 53 "The mathematician," 
says Kant, " can enter upon his construction of a con- 
ception from any datum that he pleases, without thereby 
being under any obligation again to explain that datum"** 
Not only does tie mathematician pay no attention to 
anything further, but he consciously and of his own free 
will pushes it aide, together with everything which 
makes Colour what it is : all that concerns Mm is Space, 
Time, and therein Kotion : colour is for him a number of 
oscillations and notiing more ; riot indeed because he 
has in this fashion fithomed the depths of the matter, 
but because he lacks the power to move one step nearer 



168 LEONARDO 

to the true essence of anything, by means of scientific 
methods. 

Rather than follow Goethe in his indignation over all 
this, we will learn to look upon the methods and successes 
of the exact investigator as a testimony to the correct- 
ness of Kant's fundamental conceptions of the human 
intellect. Kant teaches us, as you heard in the previous 
lecture, that there are " two "branches of human intelli- 
gence ; namely, the senses and the understanding, by 
the first of which objects are given to us, while by the 
second they are thought." What our senses give us we 
call Perceptions. For to-day let us leave on one side the 
one branch the understanding. Let us talk only of the 
senses, the source of our perceptions. 

Within the senses we must learn to distinguish between 
the two parts of which Perception is composed, for that 
is the foundation-stone of the Kantian building: in 
every perception of the senses one part is empirical, 
the other part pure. The Greek word empeiria means 
nothing more than experience, but our more refined 
analysis needs the word experience for a special meaning. 
We will therefore not rebel against the expression " em- 
pirical/ 7 The empirical part of Perception is then that 
which we receive by sensation ; everything that you see, 
smell, hear, etc., is, in so far as you take into account 
this impression only empirical Perception. " The im- 
pressions of the senses give us the first occasion to bring 
about experience/' But before you san perceive as 
object an object afforded by the sens you must add 
something which is equally Perception, though not 
empirical Perception, that is to say, aot an impression 
of the senses, not a feeling received from outside, but 
something which you yourself conttfbute as man, and 
which Kant calls Pure Perception in contradistinction 
to the other Perception. This pure Perception is the idea 
of space. As Kant says, " the conception of space is the 



LEONARDO 169 

form in which our senses perceive, and is innate in us 
before ever a concrete object has impressed our senses in 
any one particular direction." 55 

I do not wish to-day to embark upon metaphysical 
discussions : and so I lay hold upon a concrete argument. 
You are aware that Natural Science has been developing 
itself, unhappily, out of touch with Kant, for the most 
part in violent opposition to all philosophy : even such 
a man as Helmholtz, who busied himself much with 
Kant, yet in many essential points utterly misunderstood 
him ; 56 now I should like you to take up the work of 
one of the most rabid anti-metaphysicians of our day, 
yet a pre-eminent and trustworthy investigator ; Mach's 
Analyse der Empfindungen (The Analysis of Sensations). 
Here you will find, p. 93 of the 2nd edition, 1900 (104 
of the 4th), the assurance that the biological and psycho- 
logical investigations of the nineteenth century have led 
to the conviction that " the perception of space is lorn 
with us." As we do not propose to go deeper into this 
subject, this testimony, which is above suspicion, may 
suffice ; it comes from a quarter in which for a whole 
century men have been labouring to prove the contrary. 
Mach and the men of his intellectual school are certainly 
of a very different opinion from that of Kant : there are 
millipedes that crawl upon the ground and eagles that 
soar in the air ; both have the right to live, and it would 
be foolish to exact that they should view the world from 
the same point of sight ; yet the recognition acquired 
with painful honesty that " the perception of space is 
born with us," expresses the same fact as Kant's irre- 
futable metaphysical creed " the conception of space 
is present as a form of our sense-perception," and that 
means the conditional possibility of all experience-^- 
" before a real object has fixed itself upon our senses by 
perception." You must not fall into the absurd mistake 
of supposing that Kant meant that Space is not something 



170 LEONARDO 

really present ; on the contrary, he calls it on that very 
account pure perception, because Space is the fundamental 
condition under which things in general " manifest them- 
selves to us/' and thus at the same time determines the 
root of all perception. Moreover, you must understand 
that this pure perception by itself would serve us little ; 
for, says Kant, " the Material or Real which is to be seen 
in Space, necessarily presupposes perception, and inde- 
pendently of that perception, which exhibits the reality 
of something in space, can by no force of the imagination 
be invented and brought into existence." Indeed, Kant 
gives here a fine definition of sensation when he says, 
" it is that which describes a reality in Space." We are 
not then floating in the clouds, but are working on behalf 
of knowledge attainable by every thinking man, and 
without which he can rightly grasp neither Goethe's 
investigation of Nature nor exact Science in its essence 
and what we recognise is that in everything that nature 
in such generous measure brings to our senses, we must, 
within the limits of sensitive perception, and without 
reckoning all that our understanding afterwards adds to 
it, distinguish between a " pure perception " which 
constitutes form, and an " empirical perception " 
which constitutes the matter of perception. We can 
apply the saying of Aristotle which I quoted at the 
beginning of the lecture : within the limits of the 
perception of the senses there is passivity and activity ; 
the conception of space is an " activity " of the human 
intellect, it is the condition upon which that which is 
perceived by sensation (and that is " passivity ") can 
be viewed. 

Now for the application of these considerations. 
Everything that is size, form, and quantity, manifestly 
belongs to the conception Space, and that means to 
the domain of pure perception, to the domain of form, 
to the domain of the necessary purely human condition 



LEONARDO 171 

of activity. Here arises the plain certainty of mathe- 
matics. There are people who cannot see red, others 
who cannot see blue; empirical perception, that is to 
say the capability of grasping sensations, differs in 
different individuals ; but there is no man for whom the 
sum of the three angles of a triangle means more or less 
than two right angles. Again, I can in my mind construct 
a cone, that is to say perceive it, and out of this percep- 
tion develop all its mathematical essentials, without ever 
having had a cone presented to my empirical perception : 
while, on the contrary, I could never invest the cone with 
a colour or a smell, unless they had been previously known 
to me by the perception of the senses. If then in my 
investigations of Nature I confine myself as far as 
may be to the pure side of perception with the utmost 
possible neglect of the empirical side, I shall be in the 
enjoyment of two great advantages. In the first place, 
I take into consideration only that which is absolutely 
certain and universally valid, the Formal, as you have 
seen, in opposition to the Material ; secondly, as I am, 
so far as possible, limiting myself to my own peculiar 
human domain, I am able on the basis of fewer experi- 
ments to hurry on to further experiments, just as I 
investigated the essentials of the cone (that is to say, its 
mathematical essentials) in my brain. Empirical per- 
ception, that is, the perception of the outer senses, brings 
me at every step something new, something that I never 
had seen before ; whereas pure perception is despotically 
confined to sure and fixed ways. Every voyage of 
discovery, every net that is sunk in the depths of the 
ocean, brings to light new forms of life, fortns never 
suspected, never anticipated : every year chemistry' 
discovers new elements ; with modern telescopes the 
number of the celestial problems has only been multi- 
plied : on the other hand, Newton's calculations are 
to-day what they were yesterday, and ten thousand 



172 LEONARDO 

years hence they will be just as true : they are more 
firmly built than the Pyramids of Egypt; they lay 
down the tyrannical law of our own human intellect, the 
law from which we cannot escape, and with which we 
"master Nature." Here, therefore, in the domain of 
pure perception, mixed up as little as possible with 
empirical data, I can work on behalf of experience, and 
can give to the results of experiment a safe, incontro- 
vertible expression. For " empirical perception is only 
possible with the help of the pure contemplation of space 
and time ; what Geometry says of the former, therefore, 
holds good also, without any possibility of contradiction, 
of the latter/* Here, and here only, we obtain a firm grip 
of the latter. That is the somma certezza della matematica 
which Leonardo so rightly saw and honoured as the ideal 
for all scientific investigation. While in other fields the 
attempts at exact research are subject to change, so that 
as Kant says " only fleeting steps are possible, of which 
time preserves not the slightest trace, in mathematics, on 
the contrary, its progress is along a high road which the 
most remote posterity will be able to tread with confi- 
dence/' That is why exact science, and to be exact is 
the strenuous endeavour of all science, confines itself 
to Size, Quantity, Form, Motion : in its ultimate per- 
fection it postulates empty Space and Quantity nothing 
more (see page 131) : so when you see that it cannot 
altogether brush away the qualities of which empirical 
contemplation tells the tale, as for instance Colour, it 
bends and forcibly changes them into Motion, true to 
the principle formulated by Kant, " everything that is 
real in the objects of the outer senses must be looked 
upon as Force in Motion/* 

In this little exegesis I have for simplicity's sake 
always made use of Kant in order to render intelligible 
the essence and progress of our exact Science : but now 
you need only invert the whole story, you need only 



LEONARDO 173 

recall what I have said about physical optics, and you 
will understand how I was justified in maintaining the 
proposition that our science bears witness to the correct- 
ness of Kant's analysis of the human intellect. It is the 
proof derived from experience that he saw aright. 

I have spent so much time over Leonardo's goddess, 
exact science, that I have hardly any time left for 
Goethe's unmathematical method of perception. Yet I 
must hold this to be but a small evil. For as soon as you 
have grasped the essence of exact Science, you almost 
automatically obtain as a result the essence of that 
observation of Nature which prefers the empirical 
method, the impression of the senses, while it as far as 
possible pushes on one side the so-called " pure method 
of perception " as a mere formal principle, and only 
takes it into consideration where it touches the empirical 
and unites itself therewith, namely in the case of Form. 
" Quantity and mensuration in their nakedness, writes 
Goethe, " annihilate Form and banish the spirit of living 
contemplation/' 57 Red is 400 billions of oscillations of 
the hypothetical light-aether in the second : we may well 
agree with Goethe in calling that a banishment of the 
spirit of living contemplation. It is in this spirit, in the 
spirit of living contemplation which has been banished by 
his opponents, that Goethe's observation of Nature is 
rooted. In order not to break through the circle, we will 
hold fast to his Doctrine of Colour. 

You remember how the physicist Helmholtz tackled 
the subject. First came an abstract definition of Light, 
then a rich mass of possible constructions of the " illu- 
sion," as Hertz calls it, finally came the question of 
Colour. Goethe on the contrary starts with Colour. 
" All Nature/' he says, " reveals itself by Colour to the 
sense of the eye." 58 He declines to speak of the essence 
of Light : " no mortal will ever be able to explain the 
nature of Light ; and even should any man be able so to ' 



174 LEONARDO 

do, he would find no one to understand him or his Light/' 
More comprehensive still is the passage in the preface 
to the Farlenlehre (doctrine of colour). " For really it 
is a vain undertaking to pretend to express in words the 
essence of any thing. We* perceive results, and an 
exhaustive history of these results might at the most 
embrace the essence of the thing. In vain we take pains 
to portray the character of a man: but show us his 
dealings and his deeds together, and a picture of the 
character will arise. Colours are the deeds of Light, its 
activities and passivities. In this sense we can hope 
from them to obtain disclosures about Light/' 

I would not add a syllable to this : the Master has in 
these few words said all. My one wish would be that 
you should make friends with that beautiful, precious 
work, and learn to see through Goethe's eyes. 

I should gladly have said a little more about the 
Doctrine of Colours, but it would lead us too far. Only 
one thing I must say. If a brilliant process of discovery 
has testified to the value of the mathematical method, 
equally a century of experiments has led to the result 
that Goethe, and Goethe alone, has correctly observed 
the phenomena of Colour. In the matter of the Doctrine 
of Colour, Johannes Muller is already out of date ; Helm- 
holtz, whom we have only just lost out of date ; Hering, 
who is still with us out of date ; 59 Goethe, on the 
contrary, as a younger professor has recently assured us, 
"comprises the foundations of the most modern opinions" ; 
and that will hold good a thousand years hence. It is 
no part of Goethe's endeavour to find a theory, that is to 
say a mathematical formularisation. When his brother- 
in-law, Schlosser, asked him how far his Doctrine of 
Colour might agree with the hypothesis of oscillations, 
" I had unfortunately to confess that my method took 
no notice of the matter, but that the only object was to 
focus innumerable experiences, to set them in order, to 



LEONARDO 175 

discover their inter-relationship and their position as 
opposed to and as agreeing with one another, to make 
them generally comprehensible/' 60 My further lectures 
will show that this position of Goethe's corresponds 
exactly with Plato's and Kant's critical method of the 
understanding of phenomena, in opposition to every 
childish attempt at their explanation. Goethe's Doctrine 
of Colour is the almost spotlessly clear reflection of 
empirical observations, and this is a more difficult under- 
taking, and needs more training than/ the use of mathe- 
matical instruments. The student in his very first term 
can make spectroscopical experiments I know it from 
my own experience ; but to have such a clear insight 
into Nature as Goethe had, that is a matter of genius and 
self-education. Goethe himself bore witness that he was 
" not gifted with keen sight " ; Leonardo's eye, on the 
contrary, pierced like a dagger into the very heart of 
phenomena ; but I think that our theoretical endeavours 
will have rewarded you by enabling you henceforth to 
distinguish between keen sight and clear sight : if we 
accurately consider the schematising of the plastic artist, 
with which we dealt at the beginning of this lecture, 
we shall find it to be under the domination of the same 
despotic spirit that rules the schematising of an exact 
investigation : that Goethe could not paint does not only 
originate from any deficiency, it may also be looked upon 
as the positive quality of a spotlessly clear sight. And it 
may well be that this most rare quality accounts for the 
fact that people have not even understood how to read 
Goethe. To this day you will find in every book about 
Goethe, whether it be the work of friend or foe, the 
assertion that Goethe taught the existence of three 
primitive colours, Red, Yellow, and Blue, and that he 
held green to be a mixed colour. Now if the book in 
question is under the influence of Helmholtz, you will be 
taught that Goethe was mistaken, and that the three 



176 LEONARDO 

primitive colours are Red, Green, and Violet : if the 

book is more modern, it will probably prove to you with 

ease, that the idea of three colours is nothing but an 

absurdity, since all phenomena of contrast show that 

colours run in pairs, and therefore that, as main ideas, we 

must in every case accept two, or four, or six, or some 

other even number of colours. Of these, as Leonardo 

was the first clearly to recognise, Red-Green on the one 

hand, Blue-Yellow on the other hand, are without a doubt 

to be accepted as primitive colours. To set up primitive 

colours, on the contrary, as Helmholte did referring to 

Young, and at the same time to leave out Yellow and Blue, 

means a ne-plus-ultraof the art of combination devoid of all 

observation. 61 If you take Goethe himself in hand, you 

will be amazed to discover that it never occurred to him to 

teach the doctrine of three primitive colours. It is true 

that he asserts that painters and colour-makers start from 

three colours becaxise out of them they can obtain all 

the others; 62 but he himself fixes no number as a general 

proposition, but only affirms that colour proceeds from 

two extreme starting-points ; nearest to the light a 

colour arises which we call Yellow : another one 

nearest to darkness arises which we describe by the word 

Blue, 63 And so far as the culminating point of these two 

extremes, leading through Orange on the one side, 

through Violet on the other, is Red (the Zenith as Goethe 

calls it) ; 64 while the depression of these same extremes 

through Yellow-Green and Blue-Green, reaches a furthest 

point called Green (which Goethe calls the Nadir) : so fax 

we may certainly talk of four primitive colours as Goethe 

sometimes does. We might therefore in Goethe's case speak 

of two or of four primitive colours, but never of three. 

But the truth is that in his view colour is a unity ; that 

is why he once suggests that Red includes all other 

colours. 65 But colour might equally be considered as a 

duality, inasmuch as " there are only two quite pure 



LEONARDO 



177 



colours," Yellow and Blue. 66 Here, as you will surely 
observe, the fundamental idea is form, not the conception 
of Numbers. And for that reason, unless I am mistaken, 
our most modern physiologists with their purely mechani- 
cal conception of colours are not so near to Goethe as they 
themselves fancy. It is true that their colour-cross 

Red 



Yellow - 



-Blue 



Green 

has set us free from the silly colour triangle, 
Red Re 

or 




Yellow 




Blue Green 



Violet 



and every empirical truth here signifies an approach 
towards Goethe, but I am afraid that Goethe must still 
wait a while before he becomes quite modern. True, he has 
said that to understand his teaching "needs nothing 
more than clear vision and a healthy brain/' At the 
same time he has expressly declared that his teaching 
"is harder to comprehend than Newton's/' 67 dear 
vision is as good as non-existent among us ; we had to 
wait for Goethe to teach us that. 

And so we arrive at the answer to the question which 
rendered this excursus necessary whether what Goethe 

I N 



i 7 8 LEONARDO 

aimed at, in express opposition to Leonardo, namely an 
anti-mathematical, and so far illogical and unscientific, 
comprehension of Nature, was not profoundly justified ? 
I hope that the question now presents itself to you in a 
quite different guise and stripped of all phrase-mongering. 
You have seen with your eyes the might, and at the same 
time the beggarly poverty, of the whole system of pure 
science. " The mathematician is master over Nature," 
says Kant rightly enough, but what does the master 
know of his slave ? Nothing but the work with which he 
has entrusted him. Goethe faces nature in a quite 
different spirit, and therefore with a different intellectual 
conception. His is not the ambition to master Nature, 
but to possess her intimately : she is not to work for him, 
but he for her ; he wishes to re-create her and so make her 
his own. Exactly as we just now recognised Colour as 
something at the same time quite subjective and quite 
objective, so he paves the way for a view of Nature that 
shall be quite Human (without which it would be incom- 
prehensible), and at the same time Pure Nature, or 
perhaps it were better to say as nearly Pure Nature as 
possible. Mathematical Physics are, as you have seen, 
something painfully abstract : for whilst, as far as may 
be practicable, it pushes on one side empirical observa- 
tion, it not only denudes things of their essential nature, 
but it robs me as man of all the direct perceptions of the 
senses. There remain nothing but ghosts flitting hither 
and thither between object and subject. That Red can 
be understood as 400 billions of oscillations in the second 
is a most important formula for science, and therefore 
for practice : for life it is absolutely without significance. 
La meccanica e il pamdiso was no conviction of Goethe's ; 
he said, " mechanical formulae change the living into the 
dead/' 68 His wish was to teach men to look upon life as 
something living. 
Here again there must be Method, otherwise there 



LEONARDO 179 

would be no unity and no goal to attain. The saying 
about phantasy which I quoted at page 121 that it is 
very near to Nature and is the offspring of Nature 
gives you the key. The relationship with Art is patent 
and sure, comforting and inspiring. But never forget 
that other saying about the " exact phantasy of the 
senses," do not forget that Goethe saw with incom- 
parably greater accuracy .than Newton and Helmholtz. 
We are not dealing here with creatures of fancy, but with 
that which Goethe calls " the productive power of 
imagination/' 69 Without imagination we men are lost : 
only think of the waves and the rays, and the polarisation 
of the hypothetical medium ! But while mathematical 
science works with Schemes which have only been 
invented in the interest of the human brain, Goethe is 
striving to come on the track of Nature, and by the 
means of Symbols to discover and explain, not her 
mechanism, but her Ideas. On one occasion his language 
is as dear as daylight, " my impulse is the embodiment 
of Ideas/' 

As soon as we have obtained a clear notion of Goethe's 
goal and method, we understand what Kant means when 
he demands of us that " we shall judge phenomena not 
only as belonging to Nature in her purposeless mechanism, 
but also to analogy with Art/' But before speaking in 
this connection of Kant who in such a peculiar fashion 
goes hand in hand with Leonardo and Goethe, it will fit 
our purpose to sum up briefly the result at which we have 
arrived in regard to the two ways of contemplating 
Nature. The riskiness of such an undertaking is well 
known to you, but this is not the case of a building in 
which we purpose to abide, but only of a milestone on 
the road towards the attainment of a living idea of the 
personal way of thinking of Immanuel Kant. 

There is one mode of Seeing, analytical, aiming at a 
mathematical dissection of Motions, and there is another 



iSo LEONARDO 

mode which is intuitive and directed towards an imaginary 
reproduction of Nature. Neither has any value unless it 
is exact. The material, both objective and subjective, is 
in both cases the same ; but the direction of sight implies 
as condition a deeply reaching difference; one man is 
unable to see the one end of the spectrum, another man 
cannot see the other end : that accounts for Goethe's 
inability to understand the essence of mathematics, 
while it equally accounts for Leonardo's one-sided 
preference for mathematical interpretations. 

The analysis of motions leads to true exact Science. 
The principle of Science is the lordship of the human 
intellect, which imposes its law upon Nature empirically 
perceived. The organs of Science are Mathematics for 
that which is seen, the Logic of cause and effect for 
synthesis outside that which is seen. 70 All matter of 
perception that cannot be assigned to one or other of 
these Schemes is put aside and ignored. We may there- 
fore describe Science as systematic Anthropomorphism. 
From this there result two deductions. Inasmuch as the 
Anthropos himself is a portion of nature, it is manifestly 
probable that he will be able to assimilate an important 
part of the phenomena of Nature according to the 
scheme which is specially his own ; to this the history of 
science bears witness. What he has assimilated according 
to this method is unconditional Knowledge : it is avail- 
able at all times and to all men. This knowledge is not 
the same as reality : it is only a Scheme ; it hardly 
touches the essence of things ; yet it suffices for theory 
and for practice. That We should call the first deduction. 
And now for the second. On such a foundation it is 
possible to construct a flawless consistent building as a 
system of Nature, without the human intellect ever 
falling into contradiction with itself, without therefore 
any injury to the principle of thought, correct logical 
sequence and it is in spite of that possible that from 



LEONARDO 181 

beginning to end, at every single stage, it may only have 
grasped a fragment of the truth. For the revelation of 
this fallacy which gives the lie to the whole essence of 
the world (we might call it the error e% incomperto) 
science affords no handle. A Goethe is therefore fully 
justified in demanding that Nature should be considered 
as not only mechanically logical, but also according to 
another method ; he is only wrong when he calls this 
other method of observation " exact Science." 71 

The essence of the other form of seeing is more difficult 
to define, just because it is a purer method of seeing. 
Here the characteristic feature is devotion to Nature, 
the struggle to escape from the serfdom of anthropo- 
morphism. The Principle is Love, the Aim " the con- 
templation of Nature's own thoughts," the Organ the 
senses in partnership with Phantasy. That which is 
thought is here incapable of being known ; as the Indian 
sage Bartrihari says, "there are no words for this thought," 
Think only of the doctrine of Metamorphosis : the 
doctrine of colour runs on all fours with it. Yet we must 
always keep before our eyes what is the meaning of our 
so-called knowledge, and within what narrow bounds it is 
fixed ; rightly viewed, as we have seen, the knowledge of 
our Science is rather a method of investigating and 
mastering Nature than true knowledge. By science, our 
powers, the physical conditions of our existence, our 
arsenal of the material of knowledge, are enriched. But 
it is only its subjective acceptation, and the elaboration 
into something personal, that enriches our intellect. 
And this is the way that Goethe adopts. Of his doctrine 
of colour he himself confesses that it cannot be taught, 
" it must be held as practical, not as theory," 

Let me here make my own profession of faith. You 
know how greatly devoted I am to exact science ; that 
is above any other the sphere in which., had the fates 
been kind, I might have been in a position to render 



i8s LEONARDO 

some service. At the same time I am firmly convinced, 
that the greater the prosperity of the development of 
exact science, the more indispensable must become a 
purely contemplative conception of Nature, and that 
moreover in the interest of human culture. And if we 
wish to define this method of contemplation from the 
standpoint of Leonardo, that is to say from the standpoint 
of a strictly and logically synthetic understanding, then 
we must say that it is a contemplation of Nature that is 
devoid of causality. Pure contemplation tells us nothing 
of the past, nothing of the future, nothing of cause and 
effect. " The tracing back of effect to cause is a mere 
historical proceeding/' says Goethe. His doctrine of 
Metamorphosis is not the discovery of something that 
has taken place, but the setting forth of an Idea, Idea 
of Nature, Idea of Man, which meet at this point : and 
in his studies of colour he is so fax from wishing to supplant 
an old theory by a new one, that he blames the inclination 
of men to " set aside phenomena " by an explanation, 
instead " of making themselves acquainted with Detail 
by intimate sympathy, and so building up a Whole/' 72 
But our whole educational training makes us rather 
" historical " beings than creatures of the present, and 
those two conceptions, Moment and Sight, are nearly 
related. The man who in the contemplation of Nature 
busies himself to trace back a so-called Effect to a so- 
called Cause, follows the path of the mathematician : for 
just as the one prefers the forms of pure perception, so 
the other prefers the forms of empirical perception to the 
prejudice of experience afforded by the senses : he will 
see keenly, but not clearly, for his vision is troubled by 
thought, that is to say, by systematic synthesis accord- 
ing to human Laws. Experience is, according to Kant, 
" a product of the understanding from materials furnished 
by the senses " ; that it is in every case ; but it makes a 
great difference whether the preference be given to the 



LEONARDO 183 

element of the understanding or to that of the senses ; 
exact science does the one, Goethe the other. For Goethe 
the question is one of reproductive, or let us say boldly, 
of artistic vision, (which can only be the case when it 
is allied to Genius) in contradistinction to an abstract 
observation of Nature which exclusively busies itself 
with dissection and peering into causes. If any one 
should teach us to suppress, not for ever, but at pleasure, 
this involuntarily schematising activity of the intellect 
in the interest of vision, and as Goethe said, of " con- 
struction," he would be endowing us with new eyes. Just 
as the mathematicaTmethod has been enriched with new 
instruments, so would this method of pure observation 
enrich us with new thoughts and images. Richer than 
ever before would the source of phantasy flow, because 
science has in the meanwhile been extending the field of 
the Visible. Unless we follow Goethe's example our 
civilisation will evaporate into mere equations ; Goethe 
has shown the road to culture. 

But it is not only Goethe who has shown it ; Kant has 
done the same. If only you should obtain a living insight 
into the fact that Kant, whose eye so plainly differed 
from Leonardo's and Goethe's, yet shares the diametri- 
cally opposed views of both men in relation to the 
observation of Nature, and so leads to a harmonious 
adjustment between them, then the patience which you 
have shown to-day would be richly rewarded. You 
know how far he agrees with Leonardo : there is no 
difficulty about, that : to perceive the agreement with 
Goethe requires a finer analysis. Yet it is such a distinct 
feature in Kant's being, that a few words will suffice to 
direct your attention to it. A later lecture will go 
further into this. 

Kant knew exactly what constitutes the principles of 
exact science. He writes, " we can speak of Light-matter, 
Heat-matter, etc., because they are mere fictions of forces 



184 LEONARDO 

which contain no more than a relative conception " (Ur, 
HI, 598). And the same man who said, " there can be 
no true recognition of Nature without presupposing 
mechanism as the foundation of natural investigation " 
you know exactly what he meant by that, and how he 
meant it, the same man writes in the same place, " this 
is in no way opposed to the maxim to seek and reflect 
upon a principle in certain forms of Nature, which is a 
quite different matter from explanation in accordance with 
the mechanism of Nature" (Ur, 70). It is true that 
here Kant has in his head only a single other principle, 
that of Final Causes ; still in this work upon the power 
of judgment other principles come into play which only 
indirectly affect the Final Causes, as for instance in the 
great discussions over the ideas of genus and species, 
metamorphosis and persistence of form, etc. The Final 
Cause is in general, as we see in many passages, considered 
by Kant as of identical meaning with architectonics. 
We are dealing then with " Nature as a presentation of 
Ideas/' as the same work says, " an effort," as Kant had 
already said in the essay on Pure Reason, " which 
deserves respect and following up." I would bespeak 
your whole attention for the following sentence. Kant 
says, " Taken literally and considered logically, it is im- 
possible to represent ideas. But if we widen our power of 
conception ... for the contemplation of Nature, Reason 
inevitably comes in, and brings forward the effort of the 
mind, vain though it may be, to make the representation 
of the senses adequate to these ideas " (Ur, note to 29). 
Here is a sentence which might have been coined from 
Goethe's mode of contemplating nature. To widen the 
empirical power of representation must be its keynote. 
It is just this very effort to widen empirical contem- 
plation, the share of the senses, in contradistinction to 
the preference of a one-sided and so to speak abstract 
contemplation which fundamentally distinguishes 



LEONARDO 185 

Goethe's method from that of science. And notice how 
our dear dry Kant, speaks : " taken literally and looked 
at logically " ideas cannot be expressed, and the attempt 
remains " in vain " ; yet no one hinders us from casting 
away the livery of the Literal, and the serf's chain of a 
Logic ultimately leading to absurdities, as Kant himself 
has shown in his famous exposition of the Widerstreit 
der Vernunft (the Antagonism of Reason). The idea 
" species " taken literally cannot be shown to the senses, 
yet in spite of that it forms the foundation of all science 
of beasts and plants : the idea metamorphosis cannot 
hold out against logical investigation, yet it is an idea 
.which lies at the root of all comparative anatomy. 
Science only widens extensively, while on the contrary a 
fashion of seeing after the manner of Goethe widens our 
"power of representing the perception of Nature'* 
intensively. 

It would of course be an absurdity to expect to find 
ideas working in a man like Kant, who kept his eyes 
closed, in the same sense as they did in Goethe. Descrip- 
tions alone gave him any lively conceptions ; in no other 
way could he see anything. A direct contemplation of 
Nature, of the widening of which he speaks here, so far 
as Nature in the concrete is concerned, could not exist 
for him. Face to face with nature he could neither 
discover with Leonardo nor invent with Goethe. His 
ideas ideas of genius in regard to surrounding Nature, 
are accordingly purely schematic, purely mechanical. 
His theory of the heavens is a good example of the way 
in which the Physicist searches " for " experience. But 
there is also an inneq: Empiricism, an inner nature. And 
here, here where Kant is quite at home, he stands in 
exactly the same position as Goethe stands in relation to 
surrounding, concrete Nature. There is indeed a form of 
idea which only in a case where the eye is directed 
inwards could develop itself to such a brilliant clearness, 



186 LEONARDO 

that it might at last, like the Holy Grail, blaze through 
the cavernous darkness, an idea whose counterpart, 
what Goethe called the God-Nature, is the idea of 
Freedom. The man who had followed the mechanism 
of Nature, not only in the construction of the world, but 
extending into the innermost folds of the intellectual 
activity of man, recognised moral independence as the 
highest power of human personality. That is an idea, 
an idea which may not be capable of being expressed, 
but which may well be "lived," exactly as Goethe's 
endeavour strove towards " living " the Nature around 
him. So long as I take as principle the mechanism 
of natural investigation, so long I must look upon 
myself as a mere machine, or as Kant puts it " a 
Nature which the will subjugates " ; I must be able to 
explain every most delicate impulse of my thought and 
feeling just as mechanically as the essence of Light, even 
though I should be compelled to premise for the purpose 
many " peculiar forms of motion of hypothetic media." 
Whoever denies that is working in the interest of obscu- 
rantism, and shows that he has no share in the blessing 
of true Teutonic science; for him the whole develop- 
ment of our knowledge of Nature from the fifteenth to 
the twentieth century has never existed. But does 
mechanism suffice for me ? As a thinking and moral 
being am I not compelled to feel that if I go no further 
I am lying to myself ? Does not the most intimate 
experience of every moment bear witness to freedom and 
responsibility ? Does it not prove the reality of " a 
Nature which is subjected to a Will " ? Remember how 
Goethe undertook the investigation of Light, not by the 
presumption of a hypothetical being, but by the faithful 
exposition of his dealings, his activities, and passivities. 
In the same way Kant repudiates the idea that we should 
search for the essence and the importance of being a man 
in the study of anatomy and in the comparison of the 



LEONARDO 187 

human skeleton with that of other genera of animals 
the rather " are they only to be found in his dealings 
whereby he reveals his character." 73 Here you have, as 
you see, almost literally Goethe's words about Light. 
And what does Kant, the mechanician and analyst, 
discover when he puts these dealings to the test ? ( * Man's 
freedom and independence of the mechanism of all 
Nature." But this view determines him to hold up 
before us men an idea (here called ideal because it leads 
to dealings which it is our business to make perfect), 
which is not taken up passively from so-called revelations, 
which as a general proposition is not pre-existent and 
waiting for our coming any more than is the idea of 
metamorphosis, " but which may become reality through 
that which we do and that which we leave undone." 
Instead of theoretically debating about Freedom it is 
our duty to prove it by deeds ; by Freedom we must 
realise ideals in defiance of Nature. 

Here you see Kant himself enlarging upon that which 
in respect of man's relation to surrounding Nature he had 
only discussed theoretically, namely the representation of 
Nature in ideas, as opposed to an explanation of her as 
mechanism. The connection with Goethe, which certainly 
does not lie upon the surface, is here so intimate and 
deep, that I hardly think that it is possible to understand 
the one man apart from the other. I do not think that 
you can attain a fully concrete notion, void of phrase- 
mongering, of what Kant -understands by " Independence 
of mechanism," and " Freedom," unless you dip deeply 
into Goethe's study of nature ; and, on the other 
hand, I am convinced that our conception of Goethe's 
method of considering Nature remains dull, insufficient, 
and false, until we have realised that with him it is a 
question of something quite as direct, quite as truly 
experienced, as Kant's idea of the freedom of the human 
Will. Goethe, like Kant, wishes to carry out a work of 



i88 LEONARDO 

salvation, and in the case of both men the method is the 
same. Kant on one occasion writes, " Two things fill the 
soul with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, 
the oftener and more persistently my thought busies 
itself with them : the Star-studded Heaven above me, 
and the Moral Law within me. It is not permitted to 
me to seek and only guess at either of these as shrouded 
in a veil of darkness, or in the Transcendental beyond 
the range of my vision ; I see them before me and 
connect them directly with the consciousness of my 
existence/' These words should remind you of Goethe's 
words, " Nature has neither Kernel nor Shell, she is 
everything at one and the same time." But for us 
men there certainly is a distinction between Kernel and 
Shell, and the inalienable tendency of our mechanical 
science, in other ways so admirable, is to make every- 
thing into Shell, the star-studded heaven as well as the 
moral law : whereas Kant and Goethe are at one in 
this, that they teach us how we are to begin to show 
everything as Kernel, in which each following the 
nature of his special gifts the one by preference fixes 
his eye upon the starry heaven, the other upon the 
moral law. 

Goethe's saying, " Instinctively I followed the same 
road as Kant," has grown more and more significant. 
It is my special hope that from Goethe's standpoint you 
are beginning clearly to see in its organic consistency the 
marvellous personality of Kant, so rich in what the 
superficial observer calls contradictions. Now, when 
you read the Critique of Pure Reason, and pome across 
the often quoted and almost always misunderstood 
sentence, " I had to set aside Knowledge in order to 
make room for Faith/' you will, I think, understand it, 
and that too, exactly in the sense in which Kant under- 
stood it. There we have a touchstone ; for no man ever 
had a more glowing respect for exact knowledge than 



LEONARDO 189 

Kant, and no man read into the conception " Faith " 
so little History and so much force of living actuality. 
To separate these two, Knowledge and Faith, and having 
done so once more directly to reunite them, that was 
his special distinguishing gift. 

For to-day my task is accomplished,and at the same time 
I leave the sphere of these two first lectures. With Ren6 
Descartes and Giordano Bruno we shall climb new 
heights, and much upon which we have already touched 
will appear to us in another light. Let me, however, in 
conclusion, say a few words about the great artist who has 
rendered us such conspicuous service. For it is Leonardo 
whom we have to thank for the incitement, indeed for 
the peculiar driving power, towards those considerations 
which have opened up to us so clear and deep an insight 
into Kant's inmost heart. Unfortunately we cannot in 
these lectures busy ourselves more minutely with that 
wonderful man : still a most cursory glance will now 
suffice us for the discovery of more than one feature of 
his relationship to Goethe and Kant, and this last 
recapitulation will at the same time spread a bright, 
transparent, and protecting varnish over the colours of 
the picture that we have obtained. 

Leonardo, who so exactly agreed with Kant in his 
estimate of mathematical and mechanical investigation 
of Nature, has left behind him proofs that he too knew 
how to distinguish between a Nature which subjugates 
Will, and a Nature which is obliged to subordinate itself 
to Will. He writes, L& necessity & maestro, e twtrice della 
Natura, " necessity is mistress and guardian of Nature/' 
that is Nature as Mechanism ; and yet in another 
place he writes, il dono principal di Natura I libertd,, 
" the chief gift of Nature is Liberty/' that is Nature as 
Idea ; and the confirmation of this Idea in man he sees 
with Kant in the signoria di se medesimo, " the Lordship 
over himself/' that is to say, what the German sage 



igo LEONARDO 

called " Freedom from the mechanism of all Nature." 
This agreement is of itself interesting ; it points to the 
fact that whoever understands mechanism as the principle 
of the explanation of Nature, and, without leaving the 
slightest loophole through which any extravagance of 
idea jtnight slip in, maintains it consistently, must 
inevitably in this way reach a healthy idealism : the 
conceptions Necessity and Freedom do not exclude 
one another, on the contrary they mutually depend 
upon one another. 74 In the clearness of this recog- 
nition Leonardo is nearer to Kant than Goethe ; the 
latter was not sufficiently a mechanist to be a pure 
idealist. 

But we reach greater depths in this parallel if we take 
into consideration the relationship of Leonardo the 
working artist to Leonardo the man. Leonardo the 
theorist is a keen but inordinately strict, dry intellect. 
Often, in the none too easy reading of his works, I have 
been compelled to think of Kant. There is the same 
hatred of exaggeration, the same distrust of all that 
might believe itself to be intuition and inspiration. To 
his disciples he never speaks of anything else but measure- 
ments and calculations and technical practices, and he 
never tires "of impressing upon them the "copying of 
Nature as in a mirror/' And now let us turn from his 
books to his works. Is what you find a copy, line by line, 
of a mechanically seen form ? Is it not far rather a 
revelation of all that is invisible, indescribable, unthink- 
able, " seeking in an instant of vision to concentrate a 
thousand experiences " ? 75 (Walter Pater). Never, with 
the possible exception of Rembrandt, has personality 
been so brought home to us : the most intimate secret of 
the soul rests, only half veiled, upon the peaceful features ; 
his female heads are the living representation of what 
Goethe calls das ewig weibliche " the eternal feminine " ; 
his figure of Christ has the significance of a fifth Gospel. 



LEONARDO 191 

The same magic rests upon some of the pen-and-ink 
landscapes from his hand : 

als ob da drinnen ganze Weltenraiime wsLren 
Wald und Wiesen, BSche, Seen 

unerforschte Tiefen 

" as if in them lay whole world-spaces, Forest and 
Meadows, Brooks, Lakes, . . . unplumbed Depths/' 

And he, the empiric and mechanician, knew, full well 
what secrets of the human spirit are here disclosed. Of 
works of genius, he says : questa non s'insegna come fan 
le matematiche, , . . non si copia come si fa le letter e , . . 
questa sola si resta nobile, questa sola onora il suo autore e 
resta pretiosa e unica, e non partorisce mai figluoli egucdi 
& se. "This cannot be taught like mathematics or 
copied like letters. . . . This alone remains noble, this 
alone -does honour to its author and remains precious and 
unique, and never gives birth to children that shall be 
the equals of Itself/' It is useless to degrade the pheno- 
menon of the human intellect to a matter of small 
importance, or to deny its existence, as we daily see 
attempted : it is a beggarly life which we prepare for 
ourselves in that way. True, the merciless realist calls 
man R delle bestie, "the King of Beasts," and he 
laughs at the monks and " other liars/' who talk of 
the miracles of " the soul/' where he, as anatomist 
and mechanician, has only found nerves leading to a 
brain ; but now he steps up to the canvas and produces 
upon it an Idea the Saviour, the rl degli uomini> the 
King of men, as his mind's eye has beheld him, a work 
which cannot be learnt and cannot be copied, and which 
can never give birth to a son like to itself. And we we 
draw near full of awe, blest with happiness, enriched for 
all time. We do not doubt the secret connection between 
the great man of art, the man who investigated the 
geometry of space and perspective, who measured with 
compass and rule the position of every leaf on the tree, 



192 LEONARDO 

of every muscle in the face, and the man who gave 
form to immortal ideas ; but here again the relationship 
is the same as that of Kant's example of the starry heaven 
above me, the moral law within me : in combination they 
complete my being ; but as cause and effect they stand 
in no relationship to one another. 

There are just two worlds. Two worlds which stand in 
opposition and in contraposition to one another, which at 
the same time imply and exclude one another. You may 
perhaps remember an important conclusion at which we 
arrived at the very outset of the present lecture : namely 
that these two worlds are sharply divided from one 
another : they lie separated as it were by a broad stream : 
on the one side a bridge, on the other a ferry, leads from 
bank to bank : there are no other means of crossing. 
The World of the Senses can in no way directly obtain 
access to Thought and Reason otherwise than by means of 
Schemes of the understanding, and on the other hand 
the world of Ideas can only attain visibility on condition 
of borrowing Symbols from the World of the Senses. 
That is a fundamental fact of the human intellect, a fact 
long suspected, and laid down by Kant for all time. 
Every attempt to deny this twofold existence, which is 
of the very essence of our nature, and therefore of 
universal nature, is offering up the one half of our being 
as a sacrifice to the other. The Mystics, among whom 
we must reckon intellects like Schopenhauer, either 
dispute the mechanical law, or violate it at many points, 
and thus play havoc with our understanding : the scien- 
tific Monist acts even more despotically : for while the 
one only repudiates the abstract mathematical, the other 
rejects the concrete evidence of the senses. The course 
of exact science refutes the first, every genius convicts 
the second of lying. And what I wish to impress upon 
your minds is that Goethe's creative ideas about organic 
Nature and the essence of Colour, and Kant's creative 



LEONARDO 193 

ideas about the construction of the human intellect, and 
about the connection between the two natures, should be 
accurately examined and judged precisely in the same 
way, as we examine and judge an original artistic pro- 
duction due- to the pure creative power of Leonardo. 
We have sufficient evidence that men of true genius 
occupy themselves with exact Science : yet it is foolish 
to expect creative achievements from science as such. 
Whatever inspirations science brings to light are not 
original but practical discoveries of Nature; none the 
less does science deserve praise on that account : but it 
is a higher matter when Nature in man crosses over to 
the work of discovery, and in a paroxysm of the intellect 
gives birth to a new thing. But to measure this with a 
yard-measure is a ridiculous undertaking. It is only the 
free, open eye which will convince us here, not the Logic 
which is like the crutch of the blind man groping his way : 
the two methods, combined yet ever estranged,, stand 
over against one another like the oscillations and colour. 
Granted that Goethe and Kant were both technicians, 
yet here too there is a mysterious connection between 
passivity and activity, between experience and idea, 
between empiricism and creative power, just as in what 
concerns the unconscious method of life, there is a 
connection between Scheme and Symbol, Technics and 
Phantasy. No man is further removed from the bungler, 
no man is more industrious, than the Genius. Fifteen 
volumes has the Weimar edition already devoted to 
works of Goethe on investigations of nature ; turn over 
those leaves if you are minded to learn how tirelessly, 
with what painful accuracy, how soberly, the great 
man studied nature. Kant on his side has surrounded 
his solitude with such gruesome moats and fortifications 
of philosophical technicalities that much courage and 
persistence are needed to penetrate into the interior. 
And just as I could not avoid criticising Goethe the 



194 LEONARDO 

technician, so it will seem difficult to many people to 
subscribe altogether to the Kantian technics. But 
exactly as Leonardo, the mighty artist, placed ideas in 
living form before our eyes, so also did Goethe, the pure 
Seer of Nature, the founder according to Johannes 
Miiller of a new ideal of Natural History, and so also 
did Kant, the august enlightener of the soul of man. 
Their works are creative achievements of Genius. These 
guide us to the inmost mysteries of nature very differently 
from the ways of mathematical science. For as Goethe 
teaches us, " the way of Nature is the way upon which 
you will of necessity meet Roger Bacon, Homer, and 
Shakespeare." This way, gentlemen, is the one which 
we seek to tread in these Lectures, the way upon which 
we meet Nature herself as she reveals herself in her 
noblest creatures. If I have succeeded, in ever so modest 
a manner, in leading you upon this road to which Goethe 
points, then there should arise before you the vision of 
three giants, Leonardo, Goethe, Kant, each standing out 
as a perfectly distinct personality : thrice the glorious 
eye of genius meets your own : a threefold stream of 
Light floods over your world. 



DESCARTES 
UNDERSTANDING AND SENSIBILITY 

WITH AN EXCURSUS UPON ANALYTICAL 
GEOMETRY 



Water is always like water, 
but it has a quite different 
taste when drawn at the 
fountain head from what it has 
when drunk out of a pitcher. 

Descartes. 




DESCARTES 

From the printing ty Mignardfrom the Castle Howard Collection, now in the 
Jvational Gallery 



DESCARTES 

THERE are days and days, and I confess that 
it is with some hesitation and distrust that I 
address myself to-day to the task of continuing 
our observations in common. For now I have 
to travel with you through regions which it will not be so 
easy to make clear as it was so long as we had the eye 
of a Goethe and a Leonardo to lighten us on our way. 
The comparison with philosophers who were at the same 
time artists revealed to us much that was of fundamental 
importance, and gave rise to observations which could 
not but result in a deep insight into the personality of 
Kant, in the narrower meaning of the word, but now we 
must face about, we must once more fix the lenses of our 
eyes upon a nearer focus ; we must bring into comparison 
philosophers who in their turn will lead us far, but on 
another road ; men, the atmosphere of whose lives does 
not consist in Beauty and Art, but in research and 
thought. To-day we will busy ourselves with Descartes 
the critically empirical, mathematical thinker, and in 
the next lecture with Bruno the logical schoolman and 
enthusiastic thinker. 

You must not misunderstand me. There is no such 
thing as an absolute artist, no such thing as an absolute 
mathematician, and above all no such thing as, an 
absolute philosopher. This sort of classification into 
professions will never succeed even with half-important 
men* Goethe and Leonardo were both of them, as we 
have seen, great investigators of nature, and thinkers : 

197 



198 DESCARTES 

Bruno and Descartes on their side possess in a pre- 
eminent degree the artistic gift of putting into shape : 
Bruno, in his manner of thinking and speaking, is as 
much a poet as Plato was ; and Descartes, the masterful 
thinker, is so penetrated with the value of perception 
and the empirical investigation of nature, that he is the 
bitter enemy of genuine professional philosophy. We, 
however, are dealing to-day solely with that which I 
should like to call the characteristic intellectual attitude. 
In Goethe and in Leonardo it is distinctly directed 
outwards : the primacy of the Eye is dominant in both, 
and indeed of the eye both as a receptive and reproductive 
machinery of the senses. It is true that we found the 
result to be very different in the two men ; for behind 
two equally powerful eyes two brains gifted in varying 
directions take up impressions, and work them up each 
in its own way. In Leonardo the gift of sight is more 
precise and, in the widest sense of the word, more correct 
in its perspective ; this he owes to the power, which we 
recognised in the previous lecture, of referring all that he 
saw to the inner scheme of perception ; before Goethe's 
eyes, on the other hand, the outlines are uncertain, his 
power of schematising is insufficient, and he mixes up bis 
thought with everything : but it is exactly this which 
bestows on him the gift of illuminating the very depths 
of Nature, depths where without the lamp of creative 
thought, dark night reigns. Leonardo sees the relation- 
ship of things to one another, Goethe sees their relation- 
ship to the human intellect ; in Leonardo's understanding 
the masculine element prevails, in Goethe's we find un- 
mistakable feminine or receptive constituents ; hence 
Leonardo's thought is keen, mechanical, scientific, and 
easily grasped, whereas Goethe's is deeper, more iridescent, 
baffling conception, because it is pregnant with presenti- 
ments too wild to be tamed into words. We shall go 
further into this in a future lecture ; for : the moment 



DESCARTES 199 

we must be contented with recognising the fact that this 
precise intellectual habit, the method of looking out- 
wards, is the common property of both Leonardo and 
Goethe. At the same time this habit distinguishes both 
from Kant, even though a closer examination has re- 
vealed to us so many points of contact in the manner of 
Seeing between him, the artist in thought, and those two 
artist-sages. But now, for the sake of comparison, we will 
summon into court two men with essentially different 
qualifications, men whose innate intellectual habit 
points inwards. I say " inwards *' because these thinkers 
in the first place consult their own thought, and only 
later on turn to Nature : they do not trust the impression 
which comes from without, not, that is to say, until they 
have, as far as may be in any way possible, tested and 
dissected the whole details of the inner diagnosis : this 
method of procedure is the exact opposite to that followed 
by Goethe and Leonardo- This habit I call the method 
of looking inwards. Ren6 Descartes and Giordano Bruno 
will, as I think, answer our purpose : neither of the two 
is so nearly akin to Kant as to prevent dark shadows 
being thrown upon the picture from them upon him, and 
on the other hand, in respect of talent and feeling, these 
two great philosophers are just as fundamentally different 
from one another as Leonardo and Goethe. They have 
in common only but this " only " means very much 
the habit of the specific thinker. Bruno, the Goethe of 
our second pair of philosophers, exclaims, Gli beni de la 
mente non altronde che dalV istessa mente rostra riportiamd 1 
(it is from the mind itself and from no other source that 
we acquire the riches of the mind),- and Descartes, the 
strict empiric, the Leonardo, says deliberately, II n'est 
aucune question plus importante d resoudre que cette de 
savoir ce que c'est que la connaissance Jwmaine, et jusqu'oti 
eUe s'etend, . , . Rien ne me semble plus absurde que de 
discuter audacieusement sur les mysteres de la nature sans 



200 DESCARTES 

avoir une seulefois cherchZ si I' esprit humainpeut atteindre 
jusque Id.* 

These few words will have sufficed to show you with 
what manner of man we have to deal here; at the 
same time the patent relationship to Kant's objects 
and methods and convictions is at once striking. The 
investigation of the essence and of the limits of human 
knowledge describes exactly a great part the critical 
part of Kant's Life-work, and that the peculiar riches 
of the mind must be acquired from within and not from 
without, puts into a few words what Kant looked upon 
as his positive, practical, and edifying achievement. 
But even the points of difference will teach us much. 
The life-stories of the seigneur du Perron (Descartes) and 
of the man of Nola (Bruno) show conclusively that these 
two men as regards their intellectual talents are far 
removed from Kant. In the first lecture we saw how 
deeply rooted in Kant's method of perception and in his 
adoption of ideas was that peculiar feature which made 
him so painfully avoid even the shortest journey; 
Bruno and Descartes, on the contrary, move restlessly 
from place to place, and from country to country, as the 
spirit moves them. Bruno, with his apostle's nature, 
needs new contacts, new excitements, new disputations ; 
he is bound to strike sparks out of life, to kindle flames 
in hearts ; wherever he goes he arouses glowing love and 
irreconcilable hatred. Descartes, the reserved man of 
the world, travels in order to be alone, enjoys in cities 
" the solitude of the remotest deserts/' steals away 
from a place as soon as his presence is noticed, and at 
the same time, by a systematic observation of the differ- 
ently constituted men and nations, religions and customs, 
seeks to free himself from the prejudices which are 
rooted in us all. Je ne fis autre chose que YouLer fa et IA 
dans U monde, tdchant d'y etre spectatewr plutdt qu'acteur 
en toutes les comedies qui s'y jouent* Such a funda- 



DESCARTES 201 

mentally different ordering of life points to far-reaching 
differences in the essence of the intellect : we may 
premise without going further that Bruno and Descartes 
" saw " otherwise than Kant did. This will be especially 
clear in the case of Bruno, who, in spite of the purely 
philosophical tendency of his intellect, is in many respects 
the veriest antipodes of Kant, and as such can render us 
valuable service, whereas in Descartes the close kinship 
leads us to penetrate the inmost secrets of Kant's method 
of perception, while allowing us to leave on one side the 
many points of difference between the two as having no 
value for the object which we have in view. 

Among the very great thinkers of the world's history 
perhaps none has been so scurvily treated as Descartes ; 
he, I mean the true Descartes, is as good as unknown ; 
the shadowy being that under this name is represented 
to our imagination, is a mere ghost-like caricature. Here 
was a man who with desperate energy fought to purge 
himself and us of all philosophical phrases ; whose 
burning endeavour it was to tear philosophy out of the 
toils of a logic as arrogant as it was impotent, and to 
open its eyes to the one and only productive authority 
of .pure perception ; a man who in open and indignant 
opposition to the schools cried out, " the whole sum of 
human science consists in seeing distinctly " ; and of 
this man the vast majority of cultured people know 
neither the personality nor the life nor the achievements, 
with the exception of just one single saying which iias 
been thrashed out until it has become a mere phrase 
cogito, ergo sum, a mere jingle pf syllables, unless we 
knew how it originated in Descartes, and whither it led 
him. Just think how it would be if some future history 
should have nothing more to report of Bismarck than 
that his was the saying, "We Germans fear God, and 
nothing else in the world/' as if this very disputable 



202 DESCARTES 

phrase represented the sum-total of the achievements of 
his richly active life I Where is the difference, if we only 
take count of one ambiguous and much misunderstood 
saying of the pioneer in mathematics, the physicist, the 
anatomist, the kosmologist, the philosopher, of the man 
who perhaps more than any other has so enriched our 
treasure of constructive imagination that to this day 
philosophy and science are refreshed by the stimulants 
of his genius ? But as though it were not enough that a 
philosophy resting upon the broadest foundation of an 
all-embracing, manifest consideration of nature, should 
have been to such an extent turned topsy-turvy by degra- 
dation into mere logical and psychological nut-cracking 
beyond all this we are even robbed of the man's 
personality. Descartes was an aristocrat by birth, by 
the bent of his intellect an extreme individualist. He 
does not only hold himself aloof from his fellow-men, 
choosing an abode in foreign parts, and leaving a town 
as soon as he becomes known and gets entangled in 
social relations, but even intellectually he surrounds 
himself with a high wall lest the doctrines of the con- 
temporary philosophical guilds should find their way in, 
and even for the time being digs a deep moat to keep the 
wisdom of the ancients at a respectful distance. To treat 
with scorn the nullities of the professional philosophers 
les bagatelles tfteole is for him the distinguishing mark 
of a " princely character," and of himself he confesses, 
" not the understanding of the arguments of others, but 
personal investigation on my own account is what con- 
stitutes for me the greatest happiness of study." It is in 
a quite different sense from Schopenhauer that Descartes 
is a great Eremite; for in him there is none of the 
bitterness or vanity of solitude, it is a proud and peaceful 
self-contentment. It was only after long years that the 
incessant pressure of so respected a friend as Pater 
Mersenne determined him to publish, and it would have 



DESCARTES 203 

remained at that fragmentary beginning, had not the 
request of an exalted friend, the Countess Palatine 
Elizabeth, stood in the light of a royal command to so 
perfect a man of the world. Je ne recherche point les 
bonnes graces de la populace, he writes with quiet disdain 
in a private letter : but with him populace has a wide 
meaning ; for when Mersenne communicates to him the 
criticisms of the most learned men in Paris, he answers, 
" I have long known that there are asses in the world, 
but I set so little store by their judgment, that it would 
vex me to be obliged to spend upon it even a minute of 
my leisure and my peace/' No more is needed to show 
that an investigator who so resolutely follows his own 
road, and avoids all contact with the officially recognised 
masters of scholastic thought, will not easily develop a 
system of philosophy fitted to be formulated into a 
strict scholastic shape. The picture of the world that 
Descartes unrolls before us, is no grafted scion such as 
we are used to see in philosophy, but a tree grown from 
the seed. Plato hangs upon Socrates, and also upon 
Pythagoras, Anaxagoras, Heraclitus, and others : Aris- 
totle springs from Plato ; Bruno from Plotinus, Lucretius, 
Cusa; Locke, Berkeley, Spinoza, Leibniz from our 
Descartes ; Kant, too, springs from Descartes, and from 
Leibniz, Locke, Rousseau, Hume ; and so it is with all of 
them ; Descartes alone stands by himself. And although 
he is convinced of the truth of his perceptions, hoping 
that their victory will result in a new birth of the sciences, 
still he keeps such jealous watch over his independence, 
he is so deeply concerned to be left even after his death 
inviolate in his proud isolation, that he starts by declaring 
that his method is for himself alone, not for others ; 
mon dessein n'est pas d'enseigner la methode que chacun doit 
suivre pour bien conduire sa raison, mais seulement defaire 
voir en quette sorte fai tdcM de conduire la mienne ; and 
so over and over again he does not shirk the paradox 



204 DESCARTES 

that his philosophy is void of all originality, which he 
only admits openly in order that the good people may 
not fall into the idea of making his name the centre of 
a school. The idea was to him a scarecrow that there 
should come men who would imagine that they could 
in a day compass that of which he had realised the insight 
after twenty years of study and education, and that 
upon it they should build up a Philosophy fit to make 
one's hair stand on end, should delude themselves into 
the notion that this Philosophy was the result of his 
" Principles," and assure the world that he, Descartes, 
was its founder. 4 It is touching to hear how he implores 
posterity, "never believe that the things of which 
people are assuring you sum up my teaching, and 
originate in me: ascribe to me only that which you 
gather from my own mouth " and his real wish, that 
is to say his wish in opposition to the founding of a 
school, he tells us clearly enough in the same passage, is 
ouvrir quelques fenetres, not to build up a system, but to 
" tear open the windows and let in the light " for all 
those who have eyes to see. You can now distinguish 
broadly, what occupied this great intellect, and what 
must needs be his aim when he at last allowed himself 
to be talked over into appearing in public. Himself a 
free personality, who at the expense of great labour had 
torn from his eyes all the bandages which education, 
parentage, the wisdom of the schools, the doctrines of the 
Church, had bound round them his aim is to educate 
free personalities, and with that object not to teach 
them, in the sense that is to say of the schools, but 
to lure them on, and to do for them as he had done for 
himself, namely, to open their eyes, and make them 
tea<ch themselves by means of perception. By " philosr 
ophy " he understands literally the opening of the eyes, 
oculos aperiref And since tins is the fundamental 
principle of Descartes' personality and teaching, so he 



DESCARTES 205 

cares nothing for the fixed establishment of great, 
universal, irrefutable principles, but gives himself a free 
hand in the intimate description of his often quaint ideas * 
which only fit in with his own personality. Only look at 
his portraits ! look at his innocently amazed outlook 
over the world, and his slyly ironical smile at the wisdom 
of mankind ! Why ! the man is anti-scholastic to his 
finger-tips. Even the famous cogito, ergo sum (" I think, 
therefore I am") is no logical conclusion, at any rate for 
him, but the verbal expression, clothed accordingly in 
the rags of logic, for a definite perception : and when the 
professional schoolmen want to split hairs with Vnm on 
the subject he winds up the argument by saying, " I 
do not argue the question of my being by a syllogism, 
but I perceive it." 6 

This was the man whose fate it was to become 
beyond the grave the sacrifice of the populace in a way 
no other thinker did. Hardly was the breath out of his 
body when the European world of learning became 
divided into two camps, the Cartesians and the anti- 
Cartesians. The proud Eye, so wise, so lovable in spite 
of all its distrust, was closed ; and now it was to be 
anatomically dissected and lectured upon. The teaching 
of Descartes, "perfected" as usual by all manner of 
insignificant and contradictory minds, was transformed 
into a system of scholastic definitions and rigid dogmas. 
Descartes had said, cr as for the search after definitions, 
we can leave that to Messieurs les Professeurs " ; in very 
many cases definitions only serve to make dark what is 
clear ; the professor with his subtle distinctions clouds 
the natural light of the understanding, and ends by 
making an obscure problem out of what every peasant 
knows. Descartes had been indefatigable in confining 
logic within the narrow bounds of its justified effective- 
ness, since, as he says, I'art sylkgistique ne sert en rien 
A la d&ouverte de la vfrite ; whereas the art of logic is a 



206 DESCARTES 

chief instrument of the schoolmen for talking of things 
about which they themselves know nothing. 7 A few 
years after his death there arose a complete logical 
system, the " Logique de Port Royal/' which pretended 
to be founded on his teaching. A very short time elapsed 
and this so-called Cartesianism was in the very centre of 
the conflict over the Eucharist : Calvinists and Jansenists, 
the deniers and the champions of the Real Presence of 
the Body and Blood of Christ in the bread and wine, 
both appealed to Descartes : in his grave he was marked 
as the founder of the philosophia eucharistica ; his loftily 
plain writings, conspicuous for their frankness, were 
forced to serve, like the arcana discipline of the ancient 
mysteries, as evidence for and against the most abstract 
cobwebs of the brain, and between whiles the Physicists 
dragged out the over-hurried hypothesis of a genius on 
the Gyrations of the Kosmos, fighting for and against it, 
as if the Personality and nature-teaching of Descartes 
must stand or fall by it ; while Freethinkers and Pietists 
both took possession of the so-called automatism of beasts, 
out of which they drew opposite conclusions. For more 
than a century the world was filled with the roaring of the 
Cartesians and the bellowing of the anti-Cartesians ; of 
Descartes, the lonely investigator and thinker, there was 
no longer any talk. And when at last, in no small measure 
out of seed which he had sown, a new science and a new 
philosophy had gradually grown up and waxed strong, 
universal contempt washed away the barren Cajtesianism 
and the equally barren anti-Cartesianism. The great 
personality of Descartes had long since faded away. 
Only the ill-starred cogito, ergo sum was bandied about 
like sea-wrack on the all-devouring ocean of the world's 
history. 

True, Descartes receives honourable mention in the 
philosophical histories. Schopenhauer's dictum, "the 
Father of the Modem Philosophy," has been universally 



DESCARTES 207 

repeated ; but it is always in the sense of what is called 
in stage language wn p&re noble, an honoured but not much 
noticed person of distinction in the background. I can 
unhesitatingly recommend to you the first volume of 
Kuno Fischer's comprehensive work upon the modern 
philosophy : he gives at any rate a fairly exact bio- 
graphical account of the man : but even here Descartes 
is so dealt with that he falls behind the other philosophers; 
and although there is much material given for a repre- 
sentation of his personality, this very representation, the 
portrait of such a wholly individual intellect, the plastic 
bringing into evidence of his special significance, is a 
failure. In most of the other handbooks you will only 
find one chapter about him, entitled " Descartes and his 
school," or simply " Cartesianism." He who said, " the 
great intellects talk nonsense as soon as it is their disciples 
who speak for them, for it is perhaps outside all experience 
that any pupil should have equalled his master/* that 
very man hardly exists any longer save in the title for a 
School ! Nay, more : when all is said and done, few of 
our professional philosophers are so equipped as to be 
capable of understanding the true Descartes; for 
Descartes, as you will already have observed, is far more 
of a contemplator of nature than a philosopher in the 
scholastic and still authoritative meaning of the word : 
indeed we might frankly call him an anti-philosopher. 
For him philosophy, this is his own literal definition 
is a tree, " the golden tree of life " ; its metaphysical 
roots strike into the dark earth, and as Descartes humor- 
ously remarks, it is not upon roots that fruit usually 
grows ; the mighty stem is the science of physics, tinder 
which he comprehends the universal laws of all motion, 
and this stem branches off into the many empirical 
ramifications of knowledge, at the points of which flowers 
at last bloom, and the blessing of fruit ripens. 8 You 
need only look at Descartes' chief systematic work, the 



208 DESCARTES 

Principles of Philosophy. In Cousin's edition the first 
part, which contains all the psychological and meta- 
physical discussions, needs only 57 pages; the three 
remaining parts, Physics, Kosmology, and Geognosis, 
upwards of 400 pages, while Descartes apologises for 
not yet being able to publish his Zoology, Botany, and 
Anthropology. He indeed was the first to put the problem 
of perception in the foreground, a fact wittily put by 
Fontenelle in the remark that, avant M. Descartes, on 
raisonnait plus commodement ; les siecles passes sont 
bien heureux de ne pas avoir eu cet homme Id ; 9 and so he 
was the first man to awaken true metaphysical reflection ; 
yet he himself spends but little time over it. It was the 
distinct perception of his own inner being that served 
him as the first step towards distinctness in the percep- 
tion of visible Nature, In the same way he made use of 
metaphysics as an active help to physics. Anybody 'who 
is not competent to follow him in the domain of natural 
science and mathematics will find it difficult to do him 
justice. He studies the functions of his brain as a part 
of the world which directly concerns him, and is there- 
fore of fundamental importance, certainly not in the 
sense of a professed philosopher in the ordinary modern 
meaning of the word, whose calling and business it is to 
think over all matters in the abstract. He has no faith 
in the professional philosophy : he characterises it as 
une grande erreur, and says, il est plus facile d'ap- 
prendre toutes les sciences & la fois que d'en detacher une 
seule. A man of this stamp is far removed from our 
philosophical professors, not only further than their own 
dearly beloved Spinoza, who never once leaves the 
domain of the abstract, but further even than a Francis 
Bacon, who, it is true, constructs a Novum organum 
for the dissemination of the knowledge of nature, without 
having ever himself been busied with mathematical and 
natural-scientific work, and whose first principle it is to 



DESCARTES 209 

abandon all philosophy in favour of a so-called empiri- 
cism ; 10 further too than a Locke, or a Berkeley, or a 
Hume, or a Leibniz, for the chief element of the philosophy 
of all these men consists in ratiocinatio, that is to say, 
the pondering in Reason, and progress through pure 
conclusions of Reason. Here, on the contrary, we see a 
man whose chief work, unfortunately never finished and 
only known by fragments, was to carry the title of Le 
Monde, ou Traite de la Lumiere ! So it was the whole 
great world, the Kosmos as we should call it to-day, and 
in it first and foremost the medium by which it becomes 
known to us, namely Light, that it was his aim " to 
observe, to investigate, to grasp," and only the man who 
keeps this aim before his eyes can hope to gain a correct 
appreciation of the personality of Descartes, and of the 
gifts which it bestowed. If we lay a one-sided stress 
upon the intellectual and theoretical reflections of this 
man, together with his metaphysical discussions on 
mind and matter, and his attempts to set forth irrefutably 
the existence of God and the immortality of the soul, 
then we shall not only obtain a crooked picture of him, 
but we shall at the same time not even be in a position 
rightly to grasp his peculiar method of looking upon 
these purely speculative questions. The man who does 
not study Descartes' physics and does not penetrate 
their essence, sees his metaphysics in a false perspective ; 
that accounts for the inadequateness of all the repre- 
sentations of Descartes in philosophical books. 

But the same ill luck pursues him elsewhere ; for he 
hardly fares better at the hands of the mathematicians, 
mechanicians, physicists, and anatomists than he does 
at those of the philosophers. Inasmuch as we are living 
under the domination of the extremist specialisation, 
every single branch of science only enquires after concrete 
services rendered within its own especial kingdom, and it 
is u]x>n these that it reports, whereas Descartes' peculiar 
i. p 



2io DESCARTES 

domain is the buffer-state. As between metaphysics and 
physics, so in all cases Descartes is happiest on the 
frontier. There where union and separation take place, 
where the coy facts are forced in the interests of com- 
bination with other series of facts to become supple and 
accommodating, there where everything arises which 
we call " explaining " and " understanding " there it 
is that Descartes at last feels himself at home. For that 
reason, and for that reason only, he devotes himself 
passionately to the study of mathematics, the great 
mediator between perception and thought, between 
things that are visible and thoughts that are invisible. 
But even mathematics, to the furtherance of which he 
rendered undying services, are to him " only the husk, 
not the essence " ; to work at pure mathematics for 
mathematics* sake he looks upon as aimless waste of 
time, and he hurries so that it is difficult to keep up with 
him through the technicalities of form and place, in order 
that he may come at once to Physics and mechanics ; 
but here again it is not the detail of the phenomena 
which interests him, but the Essence of Light, the Causes 
of Gravitation, the relationship between the mechanical 
laws of Matter and the Facts of Life, and so forth. It is 
true that if he dissects a brain he will give an exact 
anatomical description of it, 11 but what grips him is 
the hope of discovering a visible connection between 
the morphological figure and the function of memory. 
This last example shows you with special clearness how 
in this peculiar man theoretical thought and the desire for 
concrete perception went hand in hand. It followed that 
Descartes, in the individual sciences, achieved less than 
might have been expected from a man of his genius. 
His, theorising was detrimental to the freedom of his 
observation, while at the same time the freedom of his 
theorising was narrowed by the painstaking detail-work 
of his observations. Hence it is that even his undeniable 



DESCARTES 211 

services in the domain of the exact sciences, his inform- 
ing thoughts as well as the discovery of facts, reached 
their goal for the most part in other hands, not in his 
own, and therefore are assigned to other names. For 
example, there is documentary proof, though no notice is 
taken of it, that he taught the gravity of air and made 
experiments upon it, when Pascal was a boy and Galilei 
still maintained the horror vacui as an unassailable dogma, 
as also that the famous experiment of the Puy de 
Dome was only undertaken under pressure from the 
unbelieving Pascal; 12 that Descartes should have dis- 
covered the circulation of the blood independently of 
Harvey, and the laws of falling bodies independently of 
Galilei, are matters of which the specialists take no heed ; 
but for the knowledge of his personality they are of the 
deepest interest ; that he was the first to expound the 
mathematical laws of the refraction of light, was proved 
by Humboldt as far back as 1847, but I find no mention 
of the fact in any later work ; in medical books you will 
find cursory mention of Descartes amongst the leading 
names under the words " Eye " and " Brain " as you 
see mere fragments, mere insignificance, or Nothing. 
That the perceptible idea of the inertia of matter lies at 
the bottom of our whole mechanical science, is a matter 
of common knowledge, but few know that we are indebted 
to Descartes for it, and there is not one who prefers to 
base his judgment of the nature of such a mind upon an 
intellectual feat like this and others, rather than upon 
the cogito, ergo sm. 13 Just as little is it remembered 
that it was Descartes who paved the way for a revolution 
in Physics similar to that of Copernicus in astronomy, 
when he nourished the -inspired conviction which to 
his contemporaries was incomprehensible and seemed 
sheer madness ; Light is motion ; and that moreover 
not the trajectory motion of a body violently flung, as 
Newton taught, but the motion of an imponderable 



212 DESCARTES 

matter, the aether, by which our optic nerve is made to 
oscillate. Under the passive domination of the clumsy 
Newtonian ideas this thought was forgotten, and when, 
in order to justify the facts, it had to be taken up again, 
men preferred to attach themselves to Christian Huyghens 
a son and grandson of two most intimate friends of 
Descartes, who had grown up under the eyes of the 
great man, and who had further developed his inspired , 
thoughts as to ^Ether and Light into the ultimate 
mathematically and fully developed theory of undulation. 
And so the constructive thoughts of Descartes are not 
only the basis of our atomistic physics, but also of our 
molecular physics. And in spite of all it is but little that 
we learn about him in the books on natural science, and 
here too his form remains clouded and distorted before 
our eyes. 

I hope that I shall incur no displeasure for having 
shown you so circumstantially how far and why Descartes 
has seldom been honoured in accordance with his merits, 
and why his personality is perhaps never rightly judged, 
I had to introduce this negative method of deeding with 
the question, because I had it at heart to upset what you 
might possibly know about him, or rather that is to say, 
think you know, in order to make way for more correct 
views. In the meantime I hope that you will yet have 
learnt something, and feel yourselves nearer to the true 
Descartes than you did a while ago. And I .set great 
importance upon your knowing exactly what were the 
views of this remarkable man's brain : for in my lectures 
this brain constitutes the turning-point of our observations 
of Kant's personality, just as he himself, in more than 
one respect, constitutes the turning-point of human 
thought in general. I purposely use the word Brain, not 
System, not Metaphysics, not Discoveries : the system of 
Descartes, that is to say, his Kosmology as it is developed 
in the Pnncipia and elsewhere, is distasteful, that is to 



DESCARTES 213 

say, distasteful if we examine it with painstaking accuracy 
like a dogmatic structure, without paying attention to 
the author's warning to read his systematic works as fast 
as possible, comme une fable or ainsi qu'un roman; 1 * 
his metaphysics, in spite of the fact that they are the 
point from which all later thought proceeds, are at once 
jejune and extravagant, without ideas and at the same 
time hyperphantastic ; he never, with the single excep- 
tion of the explanation of the rainbow, 15 followed up and 
worked out his discoveries to the end in a satisfactory 
manner : at one moment he allows himself to be choked 
by empirical detail, in the next he soars into hypotheses 
which in the plethora of artificially interlaced distinctions 
of detail are but ill calculated to further the strict bee- 
line of investigation. We will not dispute with him 
about that, but far rather learn to recognise with Vauven- 
argues the fact that Descartes has often seen right and 
guessed right, even where he was in too great a hurry to 
press forward in the combination of hypothetic causes ; 
ordinary intellects have nothing to fear from such mis- 
takes, le$ esprits subalternes n'ont point d'ervewr en lewr 
prive nom, payee qu'ils sont incapdbles d'inventer, meme 
en $e trompant.** Descartes himself, in his wisdom, knew 
full well how that matter stood, and often gave expression 
to this appreciation in the word's : " it is enough if I 
clear the road, you must do the rest " 17 and therefore I 
say once more of him his work is of less importance than 
the Man himself, or, as I said before, the Brain. We men 
are a right foolish folk : here is the one philosopher of 
all others, in whom first and foremost personality in the 
very special character of its intellect, and only in the 
second place systematic doctrine, forms the driving 
power and the lasting interest, and yet it is in this very 
man that we have allowed personality to escape us ! 
Still, in the after life of history certain men enjoy an 
inexpressible immortality : this Descartes possesses 



214 DESCARTES 

almost more than any other man; for the thoughts 
which that brain thought, and even more than the 
thoughts, the way and manner in which that brain 
grasped the chief problems of existence, what therefore 
we must call the Manner of Seeing, the manner of directing 
the Eyes outwards and inwards, all this has so pene- 
trated, impregnated, and informed our philosophy and 
our natural science, that all of us, no matter to what 
school we belong, are compelled to weave the warp and 
woof of our thoughts in the loom of Descartes. Rightly 
did Huxley, one of the few philosophically trained 
investigators of Nature of the nineteenth century, remark : 
" In all thoughts which are characteristically modern, 
whether in the domain of philosophy or in that of 
Natural Science, we find, if not always the f ormf still the 
spirit of the great Frenchman " ; an acknowledgment 
for which one of the best authorities upon Descartes, 
Count Foucher de Careil, coined the epigram, On $e croit 
nowueau, on est CarfSsien. 

It was first and foremost the whole attitude of the 
intellect, namely the unconditional enquiring, which 
made epoch. Descartes' intellectual attitude is sceptical, 
but in the old meaning of the word. For the verb 
skeptomai originally meant to see, to contemplate, to 
investigate, later to ponder, to reflect upon. In the 
word sceptic in old days the stress was laid upon investi- 
gation and careful contemplation (Gellius called the 
sceptics quasitores et consideratores). The instinctive 
wisdom of the language-forming powers united the 
perception by the senses with the necessity of exact 
careful investigation, but not with the meaning of doubt 
which disintegrates everything, which arose in the 
decadence of Greek thought, and impressed a new 
meaning upon the word skepsis. The barrenness of 
philosophical scepticism is by its narrowed sense confined 
to logical functions : it neither reaches outwards to 



DESCARTES 215 

empirical Nature, nor does it reach inwards to confident 
self -consciousness ; the outer Nature as well as the 
inner essence should have taught the sceptics that that 
which is a matter of fact does not necessarily hold its own 
before the logical Forum. The ancient scepticism arose 
out of shallow thinking, and led to frivolity, whereas the 
scepticism of Descartes, on the contrary, means an awaken- 
ing of mankind out of the sleep of dogma to free, en- 
quiring use of the eyes. Descartes did not doubt for 
doubting's sake, but, on the contrary, in order to help 
forward the discovery of a possible knowledge. Non que 
fimitasse Us sceptiques, . . . au contraire tout mon 
dessein ne tendait qu'd m' assurer, et a rejeter la terre mouvante 
et le sable pour trouver le roc ou I'argile* The old sceptics, 
however superior they might think themselves, remained 
snared in superstition up to their necks ; while Descartes 
was in all earnest endeavouring d' entreprendre d'dter une 
"bonne fois toutes les opinions que favais regues jusques 
alors en ma creance. Now if Descartes' doubts had 
contented themselves with leading us back to that 
perception which he used to clothe in the words cogito, 
ergo sum, or dubito, ergo sum, or sum, cogito, sum cogitans, 
and the rest, that of itself would have been something : 
Kant calls 'him on that account " a benefactor of the 
human Reason " : but, in fact, this result of critical 
reflection simply means the solstice of the Cartesian 
method of thought : it constitutes the point where 
motion reverses its direction to cross over from the 
negative to the positive. The cogito, ergo sum is a percep- 
tion on the boundary-line, just as with Kant, das ding an 
sich (" the thing in itself ") is a conception on the boundary 
line, and it is only fools who find a pleasure in running 
their heads against boundary stones of this sort. Descartes 
was no such fool. On this furthest boundary line, upon 
the " rock " of his search, he raised a church to the God 
without whom he could not live ; to prove the existence 



ai6 DESCARTES 

of God is always a thorny undertaking, ior He stands 
beyond the boundary of Descartes : yet this God not 
very religiously felt by Descartes, who had been educated 
in a Jesuit school, is less pressed upon us as something 
proven than made plausible as a necessary assumption, 
and has the one advantage that he is a God of truth. 
Descartes needs Him only in the interests of truth, in 
order that what is should be true, and for no other 
purpose. 18 And now the bold investigator addresses 
himself to constructive intellectual work ! He turns his 
back upon that boundary stone, in his church he only 
kneels now and again for short worship : on the other 
hand he enriches the world with thoughts which are so 
full of life and freshness by reason of their visibility, that 
they have defied all the storms of time, and he bestows 
upon it a wealth of perceptions, which shelter such an 
inexhaustible symbolical store of truth, that, while re- 
minding us of the oldest traditions of our race, they 
point to times that are yet to come. ' 

Pray do not believe that I am using the language of 
hyperbole : my words are to be taken literally. As 
examples I will cite a thought introduced by him into 
philosophy, and an idea introduced into natural science. 
Descartes' analytical reference of the^united subjective 
and objective experience of man to the two conceptions 
extension and thought is an idea so simply perceptible 
that it never can cease working productively: to this 
day all philosophers fasten on to it. They may use 
different wool and weave different patterns, still they are 
weaving at Descartes' loom as I said before all of 
them. On the other hand, a conception like that of the 
imponderable matter filling the whole universe, the 
aether, is so rich in symbolical, thoughtful, creative power, 
that it is only now that, in the light of new discoveries, 
we are at last beginning to repognise its great fruit- 
fulness. 1 ' 



DESCARTES 217 

In his work on the immortality of man Herder remarks : 
" It is incredible how few special forms in the realm of 
thought and human activities appear when we put 
history to the test. There are far fewer Regents who 
govern the world of the sciences . . . than Monarchs 
who rule over countries." There you have, expressed in 
a short formula, the merit of Descartes. He is one of 
those incredibly few who produce special forms in the 
realm of thought and here, since an exposition of the 
philosophy of Descartes would lead us too far, we must 
give up the enumeration of the special forms which he 
introduced : but what we must keep our keenest sight 
upon is the way in which this man, receptively and 
creatively, looked out upon the world, the way in which 
he came upon " the special forms in the realm of thought/' 
Let us now apply ourselves to this task. 

I just now praised the great perceptibility in Descartes' 
thoughts ; at the same time I cited as an example his 
theory of the aether, an imaginary thing, which when we 
consider it more nearly defies all perceptibility. An 
exact analysis will convince us that, as a matter of fact, 
there are two ways of showing this expression of intel- 
lectual satisfaction which in ordinary life we describe as 
perceptible clearness ; we are partly dealing with what 
is seen, partly with what is thought. The creative power 
of the informing faculty of sight, directed upon the 
surrounding universe, was in Descartes of such rare 
might, that a matter-of-fact contemporary, the great 
mathematician Christian Huyghens, on receiving the 
news of his death, exclaimed : 

Nature! f rends te deuil^ mens plaindre laprem&re 
Le grand Descartes^ et montre ton dtsespoir; 
Quand il percKt le jour> tu$erdis la lumtire, 
Ce rtest qtta ce flambeau que nous fatvonsfu voirP 

As verses these are not worth much : but coming from 
the pen of a Huyghens, they have more significance 



2i8 DESCARTES 

inasmuch as this investigator belonged to the exactest 
of the exact. And as you hear, he maintains that the 
sunlit world was dark and unseen until Descartes lighted 
a torch over it, the torch of thought. We men see nature 
all blurred, until clear comprehensions have reduced the 
chaos of perceptions to order* Our eye sees but dimly, 
until the thinking brain has fixed it sharply, like an 
optician's glass, upon the objects in view. In another 
stanza of the same poem Huyghens makes use of a trope 
which by the direct opposite completes what he has just 
said ; for he says of Descartes that he 

Faisait voir aux esprits ce qui se cache aux yeux. 

This implies that Descartes gave visibility to those 
things which our physical eyes indeed do not see, but 
which our understanding is compelled to think. And so 
as in the one case he bestowed thought upon things, so 
in the other he conferred upon thoughts the representa- 
tions of the senses : in other words he gave them sub- 
stance. In the one case it was the turning into thought 
that which had been indistinctly seen, in the other the 
turning into something visually perceived an idea which 
had been indistinctly thought. 

We will at once illustrate these two sayings of Huyghens 
by examples. Descartes comes to the help of perception 
when he e.g. explains all the movements of bodies in 
heaven and on earth by the setting up of certain funda- 
mental conceptions such as inertia, mass, and others; 
even these simplest phenomena we never knew how to 
observe aright and see aright before the discovery of 
such ruling conceptions. To such as these belongs his 
theory that the Sum of Motion in the universe is once for 
all immutable, a favourite assertion of Descartes which, 
for the first, time, brings into the chaotic oscillation 
backwards and forwards and circuitously in the Kosmos, 
a thought' reducing it to order, a thought which, merely 



DESCARTES 219 

amplified by an additional sentence, is the foundation of 
the modern doctrine of the maintenance of energy, 
which is at the bottom of our whole science of physics. 21 
That will suffice for one of Huyghens* affirmations : now 
for the other. Descartes comes to the assistance of 
thought through perceptibility, when for example he 
starts the theory of the above-named aether. This 
thought-picture leads us on to look upon Light as the 
movement of an endlessly refined, imponderable, imper- 
ceptible matter, which fills the whole world, a movement 
which the optic nerve betrays to us, without showing it, 
since, of course, aether is not a thing perceptible and 
therefore real, but a symbol for something which is 
presupposed in thought, and ^indefinable. 22 Another 
example would be Descartes' doctrine that it is not the 
Eye but the Brain that sees ; all impressions of the senses 
are in the last instance invisible motions of imperceptible 
infinitesimal particles inside the Brain. 23 Here, in the 
case of the hypothetical aether, and in the hypothetical 
molecular motions of the substance of the brain, the 
visibility which has been acquired in what are matters 
of mere thought serves to a consequential observation 
and concatenation of phenomena ; true exact science of 
nature and of mankind first became possible by means 
of this and similar symbols. 

Here you have obviously two different intellectual 
gifts with which our philosopher is accredited, gifts 
which do not necessarily belong to one another, and 
both of which, if we see them as purely and absolutely 
developed as they are here, at once fascinate us as some- 
thing not easy of comprehension. Descartes knew how 
to give intelligible form to that which he saw, and at the 
same time possessed the power of transforming that which 
was only thought into something visible : that is the 
fact to which Huyghens calls our attention. And here 
in very deed he goes straight to the core of the matter, 



220 DESCARTES 

and for that reason his remark must serve us as a clue 
to the further analysis of this unique intellect. 

In order swiftly and surely to plumb the depths, I 
should wish to take the judgment of Huyghens which I 
have already traced back to its simplest meaning and 
reduce it to a still more striking, concise, and purposely 
paradoxical formula. For it is not formulas but phrases 
which are a hindrance to vivid insight, whereas a true 
formula serves as a skeleton round which the organs of 
the living figure by degrees arrange themselves. My 
formula runs thus: Descartes' distinguishing gift was 
to make the visible invisible, and the invisible visible. 

If you look around you in the world of your own con- 
templative consciousness, you will soon observe that the 
degree of perceptibility of the ideas which fill it is exceed- 
ingly various, and the same holds good of the possibility 
of conceiving them. And you will soon be aware that 
there exists here a very complicated interchange of 
displacements, a mutual give and take. We possess 
thoughts with hardly a shadow of a perception, and 
we possess perceptions which are attended only by 
just such a minimum of thought as is necessary for us 
to be conscious of those perceptions. Our daily life is 
made up in that way. Without venturing further I will 
only call your attention to one thing, and that is that a 
thought that is accompanied by a blurred, hardly 
realisable perception, therefore an " invisible " thought, 
can achieve but little, and that on the contrary pure per- 
ception soon grows into something monstrous, intractable, 
inflexible, unless thought takes the pains to seize upon 
it and convert it into something unseen. We are in no 
way embarrassed to find concrete examples, we need only 
think of our two first lectures : It was by a thought and 
in the interests of a thought that Goethe brought together 
the whole incalculable mass of animal and vegetable 
forms into his idea of metamorphosis : and so he breathed 



DESCARTES 221 

the artist's soul into what was a mere brutal observation, 
furthering the investigation of Nature for all time ; 
Helmholtz, the physicist, rightly taught us that the 
powers with which mathematical science deals cannot be 
" objects of the perception of the senses/' but only 
" objects of the comprehending understanding " ; yet 
Helmholtz, in his work on optics, has none the less to take 
refuge in plain diagrams, first the wet thread, then the 
ray, which like the sailor swarming up a rope, " produces 
itself along the particles of aether," and so he goes on 
from diagram to diagram because this thought of the 
" comprehending understanding " could not be realised 
and appreciated without a perceptible representation. 
This is the way in which we human beings, half uncon- 
sciously, are for ever changing the visible into the in- 
visible in order to see it better, and the invisible into 
the visible, in order to think it better. Kant, from his 
metaphysical eminence, has summed up what I am here 
only concerned to show in a concrete and visible shape 
into the following pithy sentence : " thoughts without 
contents are empty ; perceptions without comprehensions 
are blind. Hence it is just as necessary to make our 
comprehensions perceptible to the senses, as it is to 
make our perception intelligible, that is to say, to bring 
it into subjection to comprehensions/' Kant is here 
speaking of the common, unconsciously proceeding, 
necessary functions of all human reason from the moment 
that it enters into activity in the new-born babe : allow 
this reason to ripen to such an extent that it desires to 
build up for itself a science and a philosophy, and you 
will find this reason standing as conscious intelligence 
exactly where at its first awakening it stood unconscious 
Then it begins to take matters easily; it seems so natural 
not to follow Kant's warning, but to be busy with empty 
thoughts and blind perceptions, that three-fourths of all 
philosophy from the earliest times to the present day 



222 DESCARTES 

has never busied itself with other things. The writings 
of St. Thomas Aquinas, for instance, are an inexhaustible 
arsenal of ideas, which are incapable of exciting the 
smallest thought mere " blind perceptions " ; and if 
you skip from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century, 
you will find that the most popular of all the more 
modern systems, that of Schopenhauer, takes as its 
foundation-stone a thought which is, according to Kant, 
utterly empty, the one which it calls Will and which, 
according to its definition, is the opposite of an idea and 
consequently contains nothing capable of being in any 
way perceptibly understood. All such thought-structures 
are extravagance, not knowledge : Kant once formulated 
this very simply. " By mere perception without com- 
prehension the object is certainly given, but not thought ; 
by comprehension without corresponding perception it is 
thought, but none is given : in neither case, therefore, 
does any recognition take place." How, on the other 
hand, perception and thought, the visible and invisible, 
go hand in hand towards the building up of systems of 
philosophy which explain nature, you may best see from 
the histories of our natural sciences, the development of 
which was conditioned by this mutual penetration. Let 
us here pause for reflection. 

Think of how, at the beginning of the seventeenth cen- 
tury, Copernicus and Kepler are unravelling in its main 
features the course of the planets round the sun ; from the 
leaning tower of Pisa Galilei makes minute observations 
of the fall of bodies, instead of merely reasoning logically 
upon it as all his predecessors had done, and pursues 
his studies upon inclined planes ; Descartes and others 
with keen intellect and patience follow up the mysterious 
course of the Light-ray, its curves, its refraction, its re- 
flection; Gilbert publishes his observations on magnetism 
. . , from all sides there comes in a stream of additional 
matter, that is to say, material of observation, and in 



DESCARTES 223 

every single sphere the empirical investigators are at 
work trying to the best of their ability, as Kant demands, 
to make their perceptions intelligible, that is to subject 
them to comprehension. Yet here we discover something 
over which we need not for the moment break our heads, 
but which we will simply accept as experience ; namely 
that thought cannot directly fasten upon the perception 
of the senses, but must first with that intent create its 
own mental perception, that which we call Symbol 
when we are wishing rather to bring to the front the 
perceptible side, Hypothesis when we are dealing with 
the mental side. Thought must create unity : this is its 
special function : pure perception only gives a kaleidoscope 
of special cases. Therefore perceptible thought cannot 
proceed without Symbol ; it cannot, without further 
help, grasp, comprehend, and absorb the material of 
perception : without Symbol it remains empty. I can 
have no thoughts about the courses of the constellations, 
about the fall of bodies, or about the essence of Light, 
unless I also possess, besides the empirical material, and 
for its amplification, a symbolical representation of what 
takes place in that connection, in other words something 
intermediate between perception and thought. And 
here my intellect makes a further claim. Not only must 
phenomena, within the individual series of phenomena 
be joined together by means of symbols, but all the 
separate series of phenomena with which I have become 
acquainted by means of empirical perception, must in 
addition be capable of being understood as one single 
comprehensive unity. For as Kant will teach you later 
on, that which we call Nature is "the -unity of the 
multitude of phenomena," as it is set forth as a matter of 
subjective necessity by our thoughts. It is impossible 
for me to realise a number of natures. The grouping of 
the planets round the sun, the grouping of the steel 
filings round the pole of a magnet on my desk must be 



224 DESCARTES 

taken as energies inside one symmetrical Whole. And here 
the great Descartes steps in as a creative power: he 
produces a new " special form in the sphere of thought/' 
he changes into visibility that invisible something which 
our understanding insists upon though it cannot perceive 
it, he fills thought with contents: this he is able to do in 
that he sets up the perceptible hypothesis of a medium 
filling space, of a matter absolutely refined, invisible, 
imponderable, fluidly moving the aether, a symbol, the 
child of his phantasy. 24 At once all the phenomena 
mentioned enter the domain of demonstrability and so 
become accessible to the constructive labours of thought : 
the aether carries and urges the stars in their courses, the 
aether as a driving mass becomes the foundation of the 
phenomena of gravitation, one set of movements of the 
sether gives birth to what we call the wanning of bodies, 
another set to light, others to electricity and magnetism, 
and so forth. I refer you to my former lecture and am 
confident that this one example will show you with 
extraordinary clearness what is meant by " making 
visible the invisible/' At the same time you will learn 
how indispensable perception is to thought, even to the 
possibility of thought. Descartes had indeed by his 
hypothesis poured out such a wealth of visibility over 
the secrets of Nature, while he 

Fcdscdt *voir aux esprits ce qui se cache auxyeux^ 

that the eyes of men were dazzled by it. In those days 
neither the collected empirical material was sufficient, 
nor was thought adequately trained and refined to be 
fit for so grandly simple a symbol for all the physical 
phenomena of movement of the Kosmos. Besides this 
Descartes in the closer elaboration of the matter had 
fallen into an error for which he was reproved by Goethe ; 
" he attacks the insoluble problems with a certain hurry, 
and for the most part enters the subject from the side of 



DESCARTES 225 

the most complicated phenomena/' 25 There is much 
that is artificial and arbitrary in the use which he makes 
of the conception of the aether. The startling simplicity 
of the general conception is marred by all sorts of 
hazardous amplifications in detail. But it is just here, as 
is the case with every important man, that we learn how 
far greatness and limitation are set side by side, conditional 
and conditioned. And so it soon came about that Newton 
with his keen intellect, at once exact and barren of all 
imagination, once more seized upon the scholastic 
fictions of forces working at a distance, and took the old 
conception of Light as a special Matter : Newton's ideas 
are in the same relation to Descartes' ideas, as those of a 
child to those of a man ; and yet they corresponded 
exactly to the requirements of empirical investigation 
in those days. At the present time, when new matter 
has been accumulated by the work of centuries, we are 
gradually going back to Descartes and his symbolical 
method of thought : in the case of the understanding of 
Light this took place about a hundred years ago with the 
introduction of the undulation theory mentioned in the 
last lecture ; in the case of the electric magnetic phenomena 
about half a century ago ; physical experiments to explain 
gravitation as conditioned by the movement of aether, 
exactly as Descartes postulated, are the order of the 
day, 26 and the great Hertz, so early torn from the world, 
was possessed in death by the dream of reducing " the 
putative working of the distant forces to conditions of 
motion in a medium filling space/' 27 Lord Kelvin and 
following him many modern physicists, go still further 
and contend that the various atoms which chemistry 
admits are only different gyratory motions of the 
one and only sether : that there must therefore be no 
such thing as Matter, but -Ether only : in this most 
exact method of investigation the " Thing " fades 
away, the Symbol alone remains. In a symbol so solidly 



226 DESCARTES 

perspicuous is contained the principle of robust vital 
power. 

So much for the explanation of the transformation of 
the invisible into the visible. " Perceptions without 
conceptions are blind/' says Kant. Even as I could not 
budge an inch in the realm of thought unless I possessed 
a " reasoned " perception, so I must remain helplessly 
stuck in the quagmire of perception, unless I should have 
thoughts to drag me, as horses drag the cart, out of my 
difficulties. So be it. But how am I to obtain concep- 
tions for my perceptions ? Here again an intermediary 
something is necessary. Perception cannot directly 
become conception ; the intermediary image is the 
Scheme. We men are incapable of taking into our inner 
consciousness anything seen or in any way perceived by 
the senses, unless we have previously in our thoughts 
reduced it to a Scheme* This is an aptitude which differs 
greatly in different individuals ; yet if a man were 
altogether unable to generalise, that is to reduce the 
many perceptions to few schemes, it would certainly be 
impossible for him to think ; for, as Kant hits the point 
by saying, his perceptions would be blind ; he would see, 
but not recognise. In the last lecture we saw how the 
great painters schematise : a purely perceptible scheme 
is still sufficient for their object ; only a minimum of 
conception enters into it. In a somewhat different 
fashion, but in obedience to precisely the same universal 
law of human reason, science goes to work. Whereas 
the painter wishes to see yet more clearly that which is 
already seen, and calls to his aid conceptions for that sole 
purpose, the investigator of nature wishes to conceive 
more clearly that which is seen, and to transform it into 
something known. When in this process of perceptible 
reasoning it is that which is perceptible which is pre- 
ponderant, we speak of a Scheme ; when, on the other 
hand, it is the element of thought which preponderates, we 



DESCARTES 227 

speak of a Theory. Theory and scheme belong to one 
another as Hypothesis and Symbol, Now we know 
exactly with what we have to deal ; in order to obtain a 
concrete example, we must return once more to the 
seventeenth century. 

This time we must work within narrower limits ; we 
will only take into consideration the works upon the 
visible movements of perceptible Bodies : for we shall 
busy ourselves not with hypotheses but with seen facts, 
Let us then confine our thoughts to the way in which 
some men in those days busied themselves with the 
observation of the movements of the heavenly bodies, and 
how others, the immortal Galilei in the forefront, 
instituted eager experiments on the movements of 
bodies on our earth, that is to say, on the fall, the impetus, 
the rolling off upon inclined planes, upon the trajectory 
of projectiles, upon the communication of motion from 
one body to another, and many other similar matters. 
The physical acceptations of the ancients proved them- 
selves to be utterly false : new, accurately observed 
facts accumulated. How to order them ? How to 
" make the perceptions intelligible " ? How make what 
took place on earth consistent with what took place in 
Heaven ? the fall of the apple from the tree with the 
circuit of the moon round the earth ? Exactly as man 
had before, by submitting to thought the perceptible 
idea of the aether, come to the assistance of thought, so 
he had to act now in order to make his perceptions 
visible and capable of being surveyed : he had to remove 
the cataract from his eye, and that could only be by 
means of comprehensions, by referring all the single 
conditions of motion to a scheme which should be in 
accordance with rule, artificially thought out, and 
capable of being grasped logically ; not given to him by 
the empirical observation of Nature, but set up auto- 
cratically between the eye and Nature by the King in 



DESCARTES 

his Castle of whom I spoke in the first lecture. Here 
again it was Descartes who laid down the principles of 
our modern theory of motion, and at the same time 
of our whole science of mechanics. 

All movements of visible bodies may, as a matter of 
common knowledge, be referred to three fundamental 
laws, which we usually call after Newton, because he was 
the first to crystallise them in words, and has developed 
them in all their sequence. 28 But the third of these, 
which is not to be found in Descartes, is by universal 
consent recognised as a formal amplification of the first, 29 
and even so very disputable. 30 We have to deal there- 
fore with two, not three, fundamental laws, and these 
two laws were not thought out by Newton but by 
Descartes ; Newton took them over almost literally 
from Descartes, though the latter had not worked them 
up to such perfect refinement. 81 All that the so-called 
" first Law " of Newton contains that Rest and Motion 
are not opposites, but only conditions of a body, that 
every body left to itself remains perpetually in its own 
condition whether of Rest or of Motion, that the body 
which is set in motion, unless there be some hindrance, 
will continue to move in a straight line with unaltered 
speed for all time, all this stands word for word in 
Descartes. And I must call your attention to this, that 
no single one of the thoughts uttered in this law is the 
result of observation, or even capable of proof by experi- 
ment. 82 The second law of Newton too, which treats of 
the mensuration and direction of the Motion which is 
communicated by one body to another, is contained 
without a single omission in Descartes. It is he then, 
and no other, who perfected this creative work of 
thought. But here again, as in the case of the aether, 
Descartes overshot the mark, and like Diirer in his 
doctrine of proportion, introduced superfluous, and even 
in the end false, matter, so that the sure tact of a Newton 



DESCARTES 329 

was sadly needed to purify the core from the slag. But 
the only thing that is of interest to us here, is the fact 
that Descartes, by the introduction of a few schematically 
theoretical conceptions, contrived to unravel and so make 
available for mental elaboration that which winds itself 
round our senses from childhood, that in connection 
with which the whole united antiquity never achieved 
clear ideas, that which the great calculators and experi- 
menters of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries failed to 
set free from the entanglements of the whole material of 
perception ; I mean the Phenomena of visible motion. 
Here again as you see is a " new form in the realm of 
thought/' And here as in the former case the value of 
such a creation for science and philosophy is immeasurable. 
For just as the symbolical hypothesis of aether paved the 
roads for thought upon which it was now possible to 
arrive at a rational appreciation of the phenomena of 
light, of electricity, etc., by means of a visible representa- 
tion, so in this case the setting up of a schematic theory 
of Motion based upon metaphysical conceptions allows 
us to range the over-rich mass of facts seen into a few 
schemes of thought, where they can be guarded inclosed 
in formulae. For there is the turning-point : since the 
Visible is as fully as possible, in some lucky cases 
altogether, transferred into the realm of the Unseen, of 
that which is as yet only thought, it possesses a handiness,- 
a pliability, a movability, which otherwise are foreign to 
its own perceptions, purely as such and are dull, inert, 
awkward : they are, just as Kant taught *is, blind, and 
grope about in ttie dark ; but as soon as the human 
understanding has arranged them into comprehensible 
Schemes then it does with them as seems good to it, 
dissects a WJiole into Parts, unites Parts at will, in short 
behaves as it chooses : it is Lord in its Castle. 

We have now, as I believe, made an important advance 
in the understanding of the universal relations between 



230 DESCARTES 

thinking and seeing, which collaborate in so peculiar 
and twofold a combination for the building up of a 
system of philosophy, as well as in respect of the 
recognition of Descartes' special aptitude for acting as 
intermediary between them. Our formula that Descartes' 
distinguishing gift was to make the visible invisible and 
the invisible visible, is no longer a formula, but an 
Insight. But I cannot let the matter rest there. Kant's 
thinking is a pinnacle of the human intellect ; no man 
can reach him who shirks the trouble of climbing. It is 
therefore indispensably necessary that you should your- 
selves now enter upon the region which lies between 
perceptive seeing (or the sensitive faculty) and the 
understanding, which binds together comprehensions: 
otherwise you will only be possessed of partial, not 
complete, distinctness. 

Let me, however, in a parenthesis introduce a short 
remark upon the subject of Symbol, Scheme, Hypothesis, 
and Theory. It is not a question of mere terminological 
clearness, but of a visible representation, which will also 
be useful to you philosophically. 

The Symbol, in fullest acceptation of the word, is the 
perceptive demonstration of that which is thought : the 
Scheme, in its widest sense, is the rendering into thought 
of that which has been perceived : the Symbol furnishes 
thought with a thinkable perception ; the Scheme 
furnishes perception with a visible thought. Within the 
symbol, however, it is possible to distinguish between a 
more purely perceptible and a more mental conception of 
the demonstration : the result of the first is the true 
Symbol, that of the second is the Hypothesis. In the 
same way the Scheme splits up into true Scheme and 
Theory. From this I draw the following explanatory 
diagram. 

The advantage of this diagram is that it accurately 
describes the mutual relationships -of these different 



DESCARTES 



231 



conceptions that is to say, if I may so express myself, 
their mutual position in the Space of Thought. You see 
at a glance that if, on the one hand, Symbol and Hypo- 
thesis are related, on the other the relationship is between 
Scheme and Theory, while Hypothesis and Theory, 
Symbol and Scheme in the same way lie close to one 
another. A very slight mental impulse suffices to turn a 
Symbol into a Hypothesis, and a Theory into a Scheme ; 
it is a sort of swinging of the pendulum that our intellect 

The rendering perceptible 
Ihett which is ihougjhi 



eibslraci 



1 

Hypothesis 


Symbol 


Theory 


| Scheme 

1 



perceptible 



The rendering IhinKsLble . 
ihaf which is perceived 

is carrying on the livelong day without paying attention 
to it. But even the houndary between Symbol and 
Scheme, as between Hypothesis and Theory, is not insuper- 
able : a small change in the standpoint suffices to give 
a colour of Scheme to Symbol, and a colour of Symbol to 
Scheme, and in the sciences Hypotheses have a way of 
quite quietly, according to seniority, slipping into 
Theories. On the other hand, as regards the two pairs 
which stand crosswise to one another, Symbol and 
Theory, Hypothesis and Scheme, it is a matter of impossi- 



232 DESCARTES 

bility for them to be changed into one another. But 
what cannot occur directly may sometimes be effected 
indirectly, and so it often happens in the Natural Sciences 
that a Hypothesis by degrees acquires the value of a 
Symbol, becomes schematised, and at last stands in all 
the dignity of a Theory. In the course of time that 
which is really only thought, and as such in a slight 
degree hypothesised, has managed to assume the character 
of perceptibility to such a degree, that it is conceived as 
practical perception, and is then converted into thought, 
so that it takes the shape of a Scheme, and in the end of 
a full-grown Theory. With the aether, for example, it is 
always the case, until often some new discovery sud- 
denly reminds us that this idea only possesses a sym- 
bolically hypothetical value ; that is the way in which we 
men befool ourselves without any suspicion that we are 
doing so. The inverted process from Theory over 
Scheme, and Symbol over Hypothesis, which hardly 
occurs in science, is, on that account, common in everyday 
life. That which is seen is converted into thought by 
Science, but the layman comprehends scientific schematic 
thought as true perception : indeed, we have heard a 
Helmholtz talking of particles of aether " along which " 
a Ray moves ! 

This, however, is only a side issue. You must draw from 
it the one distinction between thinking and perceiving 
which is perpetually being forced to and fro in our brains. 
Perhaps in addition to that the small artificial Scheme 
may render us good service. 

And now let us go back to Descartes. 

From the two examples that we have taken, aether and 
the laws of motion, you will perhaps already have begun 
to suspect that thought and perception are not merely 
transiently, but really and permanently divided from 
one another. A complete fusion between them never 
takes place. There is never so much as an attempt <at 



DESCARTES 233 

such a fusion. The world, as we perceive it by our senses, 
does not satisfy thought, and never has satisfied it : for 
the world is incapable of thought, only our brain is that : 
and so thought creates for itself a Kosmos of its own, a 
special perception " converted into thought," and dis- 
covers at one time the Atoms, at another the ^Ether 
which the modern science of physics designates simply 
as " unperceivable matter and invisible motion." 33 And 
yet thought does perceive the unperceivable because it 
wills to do so ; and thought sees the invisible because in 
no other way could it build a bridge by which to attain 
perception, or make a road by which to reach the dreams 
and works of Reason. We may grant that this sether, this 
atom, is something perceptible, indeed it is seen with all 
the special intensity of a dream-picture, and it is only 
thanks to this vision that thought can climb aloft. In 
spite of this the sether, like the Atom, is sicklied o'er with 
the pale cast of thought, and again Jike a dream-picture, 
as we advance they retire and ever elude our grasp : 
they are indeed not perceptions of the senses, but percep- 
tion that is thought : a symbol is not a thing : the man 
who seeks to investigate aether and atom by perception, 
is tilting against something that does not exist. The 
analogy holds good with our perception. The schemes 
upon which we base our experiences in the matter of the 
movement of bodies have for their aim the transferring 
of these perceptions into the domain of the compre- 
hensible : here it is, and nowhere else, that thought like 
a mighty tree must carry and nourish the monstrous 
rootless liane of empiricism that is " conscious of no 
bounds." In this case our aim is to convert what we 
have seen into a quantity, that is to say into something 
so far only thought ; colour becomes a quantity of oscilla- 
tion, and a man born blind can talk as much wisdom 
about it as a Titian. 
But should you not yet be convinced that it is the 



234 DESCARTES 

intimate laws of the human intellect, the fundamental 
facts of metaphysics, that are the informing power that 
is at work here, should you imagine that without calling 
to your help metaphysical discussions you can arrive at 
clear notions about Time and Space, and about Motion 
in space and time, I will instead of laying before you 
arguments for which you are not yet prepared, address 
one request to you : I would ask you to refer to the 
scholion on the eighth definition in Newton's mathematical 
principles of natural science. It is the man of distinctly 
anti-metaphysical principles who is talking to you, and 
that indeed in a work of imperishable importance. In 
the beginning of the passage in question he declares with 
disconcerting guilelessness " Time, Space, Place, and 
Motion, as matters of common knowledge, I do not 
explain/* 34 If the question were merely one of dealing 
with the simple perception of these things, then an 
explanation of time and space would be as little necessary 
for the greatest intellect as for the most narrow-minded 
cow-herd. It seems to me that this postulate was alto- 
gether insensate : that which is self-evident cannot gain 
in value by explanation : on the contrary, it is out of the 
life that the word comes. Descartes' warning is : il 
faut mettre au nombre des principles erreurs qui peuvent 
etre commises dans les sciences I'opinion de ceux qui 
veulent definir ce qu'on we peut que concevoir. But there 
is no question of time and space, as they are known to 
all, Newton himself will presently teach you that this 
would not lead us one step further in Science, but with 
that intent it is our business to transfer that which is 
seen into that which is thought, and vice versa, and so we 
arrive at inextricable confusion until a critique of human 
Reason has illuminated us. Read a little further in 
Newton's scholion. You will find there things about 
" absolute space " (spatium absolutum) which are not 
less edifying than the properties of the absolutwm quid of 



DESCARTES 235 

the schoolmen. This " absolute space is without relation 
to any outward object " (sine relatione ad extemum 
quodvis) ; but there would be little to be made of a thing 
which stands in no relation to anything; therefore, in 
addition to this absolute space, relative spaces are assumed 
(in quantity), and these relative spaces are movable in 
absolute space of which they constitute the parts ! I do 
not think that the human intellect has ever attempted 
to imagine anything so monstrous as this quantity of 
spaces, which move about in confusion. It is true that 
these movements are only a passing idea such as might 
appeal to the intellect of our aforesaid cow-herd, for 
immediately afterwards Newton gives utterance to this 
deep reflection : " if the parts of space are turned out of 
their place they are, so to speak, removed from them- 
selves " ; but even that will not do, and so we 'receive 
the amplifying assertion about these relative spaces 
" the spaces are their own places " (spatia sunt sui 
ipsorwn loco). And when you are stuck fast in this 
utterly senseless empirical jumble, you are taught that 
this space (of which you were told on the previous page 
that it is such a matter of common knowledge that it 
needs no explanation), is beyond your ken, and that 
" you are not able to separate its parts by means of your 
senses " ; and therefore, and here comes the gem of the 
whole, since you are dealing with something not percep- 
tible to the senses, something impossible of distinction, 
therefore, quoriiam, you must assume perceptible mensura- 
tions (mensuras sensibiles). So with perception you are 
to reach the invisible, and to measure something the parts 
of which you are not able to distinguish ! The cause of 
this confusion which could only be cleared up by the 
highest critical circumspection and the finest analysis, 
lies in this, that mankind is not possessed of a clear 
appreciation of its own intellect : we interchange the 
Scheme which is only capable of being thought with the 



236 DESCARTES 

true perception of the senses. There in the case of aether 
(just think of the theory of undulation and its powerless- 
ness in respect of colour) that which pertains to thought 
intruded into perception with disastrous results ; or 
perhaps it would be more correct to say, since the aether 
is, as you will remember, a thought converted into 
perception the human intellect proved incapable of 
producing out of its own powers a symbol which should 
equal Nature : here, in the fundamental conceptions of 
dynamics as developed by Newton, the same intellect 
proves incapable of freely discovering thoughts in all 
portions, that is to say, of converting into thoughts its 
perceptions by the senses. In order to bring our percep- 
tions under a few fundamental conceptions we invented 
the law of inertia : but the thoughts of absolute space, 
endless time, the uniformity of a body, which according 
to definition should be alone, and so removed from all 
comparison, all this is not known to us by perception. 
From empirical perception we borrow that minimum of 
perceptions of the senses without which our theoretical 
thoughts would be empty, that minimum without which 
the scheme could not be fashioned : but true perception 
never exactly tallies with this theoretical schematisation. 
And so we come to a standstill as soon as we in all too 
great simplicity attempt to satisfy the human intellect 
without a metaphysical critique, although in practice 
all goes well enough, and a Newton erects a building 
worthy of everlasting admiration when once we grfcnt 
him a certain series of premisses as unthinkable as they 
are imperceptible. 35 

You see from these considerations how important it is 
accurately to investigate the critical domain between 
perception and thought, and also how many difficulties 
throw, us into confusion by piling themselves up against 
our understanding. Happily there is one function of our 
intellect, one, only one, mathematics, which allows us to 



DESCARTES 237 

clear up this matter to perfect distinctness. One general 
explanation, and then I propose to start upon a discussion 
of Descartes' relationship to mathematics : in this way 
we shall by degrees reach daylight, and we shall have no 
difficulty in seeing how all this may be applied to the 
study of Kant. 

I propose here to insert a diagram which will serve as 
a pause, and give my words a really comprehensible 
meaning. If we express the range of the human intellect 
by a quadrangle, a circle would be better, and a globe 
of course still better we can in general terms affirm 
that one half belongs to the senses, that is to say, to 
perception, to that which is perceived, the other to the 
understanding, thought, the formation of comprehen- 
sions ; those are the " two quite heterogeneous portions " 
of which Kant spoke a while ago. A more minute con- 
sideration, however, such as that which the history of our 
natural sciences has forced upon us, will soon convince us 
that pure perception and pure thought are not directly in 
contact, but that there is an intermediate domain which 
serves to help the crossing over of the one to the other. 
There are certainly no fixed boundaries; we are not 
dealing with a machine the wheels of which simply lay 
hold upon one another, but with a living structure in which 
every single organ in combination with all the other 
organs forms a unity at once real and ideal. Whereas 
in a watch the parts come first, and it is only in the end 
that the watch as a whole comes into existence by the 
combination of the parts, in a living body the Being 
itself is the first, and that which we are pleased to distin- 
guish as parts or organs, is formed by degrees and has 
never more than a conditional importance in regard to 
the Being, since the division of the functions does not 
take place, as in the watch, according to an immutable 
stencilled pattern, but one organ can even take up the 
duties of another. Still a Scheme will serve our present 



238 DESCARTES 

purpose, and a Scheme is only clear when it is schematic, 
that is to say, absolutely quadrangular and rectilinear. 
So we will draw our quadrangle and assign one half to 
the Senses (the Sinnlichkeit of Kant) and with them to 
Perception, the other half to the Understanding (as 
Kant calls it) with its conceptive Thought. But, towards 
the middle, pure conceptive thought crosses over to per- 
ceptible thought, and in the same way, towards the 
middle, pure perception of the senses crosses over into 
thoughtfulness. This boundary land I will denote by 
hatchings. 

You have already seen how the understanding strove 
to annex into its own domain the visually seen percep- 
tions in regard to Motion, and how with this intent it 
drew them over, not without violence, by the help of 
Schemes to its own special boundary land of perceptible 
thought ; and before that you had seen how the senses 
had succeeded in awakening to a glorious life scientific 
thoughts which had up to then remained unfnutful, and 
when well considered generally unthinkable, by the 
means of the discovery of a sensible and perfectly percep- 
tible Symbol, the aether. 

The slightest reflection will surely suffice to show you 
what a travelling backwards and forwards goes on 
within the human intellect. If, for instance, in our laws 
of Motion stress should be laid only upon the theoretical 
and arithmetical, which was the case with Newton the 
juggler in figures, then these laws end by losing all per- 
ceptibility, they leave our middle line for the boundary 
of the hatched part, they become altogether thoughts : 
but with Descartes in these very same laws of motion 
it was the conception of the senses which prevailed, and 
more recently with Hertz in the same way the geometri- 
cally perceptible: by those means the thought shifts 
towards the middle line, that is to say, towards tl^e 
Symbol, and Theory becomes relatively more schematic 



DESCARTES 



239 



than theoretic. The same thing takes place with our 
thoughtful perceptions. They may belong so entirely 
to the senses, that is to say, they may stand so entirely 
on the edge of this hatched region, so far therefore from 
the half assigned to the understanding, that comprehen- 
sion is not in a position to grasp them. Goethe's meta- 
morphosis is an example of that. Descartes' aether, on 
the contrary, belongs in an important degree more to the 
realm of thought, in spite of being still quite concrete. 
The symbol of the aether can be drawn into itself from 

The Middle Domain 




the conceptive portion of our being with such violence 
that, as you have seen, in the end every concrete concep- 
tion fades away, and aether subtilises itself into a motion 
as yet only imagined, dispensing with every perceptible, 
material foundation (see page 130). In this case then 
not only is the middle line crossed, and the Symbol 
turned into Scheme, but this Scheme itself is as yet little 
more than Thought. I commend to your understanding 
the Physics of Lord Armstrong and the " Primitive 
animal " (Urtier) of Goethe as the two most remote and 
most opposite ends of our " buffer state." In the one 
case a conception (the movement of the No -Thing in 



240 DESCARTES 

empty space) which wipes out all conceptibility down 
to the uttermost remnant, so that it is impossible to 
think of it any more ; in the other case a thought (the 
original creator of all individuals, itself without any 
individuality) has so completely materialised itself that 
there remains not even that minimum of conceptibility 
without which no form can be clearly recognised. 

From this schematisation and this warning against the 
misuse of the Scheme, let us now turn to Mathematics. 

The characteristic of the science of Mathematics is 
that it takes possession of the " buffer state/' the hatched 
part of my diagram, and exactly fills it. Here is a case 
where no scheme can be too uncompromising. Both the 
two forms of Mathematics (on the one side the perceptible 
form of the science, Geometry or the doctrine of Forms, 
on the other, the comprehensible form, Arithmetic 
or the doctrine of numbers) reach inwardly with exact 
precision towards the middle line, that is to say, towards 
the boundary line between the two domains of the 
understanding and Perception by the Senses. But 
inasmuch as mathematical science reaches outwards 
only exactly so far as the boundaries of this intermediate 
region, and does not cross it, so there arises between its 
two parts a reciprocal independence, an exact Parallelism 
which is nowhere else to be found between perception 
and thought. That which is thought mathematically 
contains nothing which might not also be perceived, 
and that which is perceived mathematically embraces no 
forms which might not also be grasped by thought. 
Here that unconscious shifting to and fro, of which we 
spoke just now, does not take place : every mathematical 
conception, every mathematical representation of ideas, 
has its appointed and immovable place. The two 
mathematical fields of intellectual operation are not 
identical, the diagram shows how entirely autonomous 
they are, and yet they are a matched pair, the one 



DESCARTES 241 

being the counterpart of the other. On the other hand, 
the sharp definition of the middle line conditions such an 
uncompromising antithesis of the two mathematical 
functions as nowhere else occurs between perception and 
the representation of conceptions. Here there is no 
such gradual crossing over as we found "between other 
Schemes and Symbols. Geometry is pure Symbolism ; 
the science of numbers is Schematism devoid of all 
Perception, it is the prototype of what Kant called 
" thoughts without contents/' 36 The conversion of 
the one into the other can only be effected suddenly, 
and is, as I shall show presently in detail, the result of a 
purely internal and arbitrary deliberation. Even where 
the two parts of the middle line are very close to one 
another I shall give an example immediately, there 
are no means of changing form into numbers gradually ; 
on the contrary, the concordance between thought and 
perception must be seen directly. If mathematics were 
not a purely human thought and perception, if we had 
to derive them from experience, as for instance we do our 
perceptions of the movements of bodies, then indeed we 
should be in a bad case ; for Nature, as outer experience, 
gives us no handle whereby we may bring form and 
numbers into connection. By good luck, however, our 
empirical shallow pates are at fault, and in geometry we 
possess our archetypical Symbolism, and in algebra our 
archetypical Schematism, and therefore, pray note this 
therefore since mathematics are a form of thought and 
perception dwelling in us, and since they exactly fill that 
frontier domain of our intellect, therefore it is here, and 
here only, that we are in a position to convert Symbol 
into Scheme and Scheme into Symbol in their absolute 
entirety. 87 

I shall make this conversion clear to you by an example. 

When a boy receives his first instruction in calculation 
by letters (Algebra) the poor wretch is in the first place 

I. -R 



242 



DESCARTES 



compelled to learn by heart a series of equations, of 
which he can make neither head nor tail, not because 
there is no food for thought in them, but because on the 
contrary they are matters exclusively of thought, since 
they deal with pure and therefore empty (" void of 
contents ") conceptions, absolutely without any percep- 
tion. The first of these equations runs thus : 



That is to say, a and b added together and then multiplied 
by themselves equal a multiplied by itself, added to 
twice the product of a multiplied by 6, added to 6 
multiplied by itself. Is not that a terror to listen to ? 
But if we take heart, and jump out of schematism into 
the symbolism of our intellect, we immediately see the 
truth of the proposition, without wasting a single thought 
on the matter. Let me show the thing in a diagram, 
only begging that you will not exercise thought upon it, 
but just simply open your eyes. 

We take a line a and add to it in a straight line the line 6, 



\ li 1 

And now upon this line we build an equilateral and right- 
angled quadrangle. 

a b 



Ca 4- *;* 



DESCARTES 



243 



What you see here is (a+b) 2 . That this square is equal 
to the square on a increased by the square on 6, increased 
by twice the right angle which consists of the length a 
and the breadth 6, you will see directly from the following 
construction which I build into our quadrangle. 



ab 



In this way Algebra has been converted into Geometry, 
the scheme of numbers into a Form-Symbol. And you 
need only invert this simple example, that is to say, 
think of the square and the construction introduced into 
it as the starting-point, in order to understand that it 
must of necessity be possible to convert every geometrical 
construction, every play of constructive phantasy, into 
a purely comprehensible, entirely perceptible, in other 
words algebraical, expression of figures. 

In the case which we have just been talking abotit 
mathematical perception and mathematical thought were 
in close proximity to the dividing middle line : there was 
therefore no difficulty in grasping the comprehension as 
material, the perception as abstract : generally, however, 
they are far removed from that line, and it was Descartes 
who first taught us how we must set about in order to 
succeed in revealing the Scheme as Symbol, the Symbol 
as Scheme, a discovery by means of which he became 
the founder of the so-called higher mathematics. And 



244 DESCARTES 

here it is that we must now follow him if we wish once for 
all to ascertain the relationship between thought and 
perception, which is indispensable for any understanding 
of Kant. 3 * 

The whole course of our considerations up to the 
present will easily convince you what a special attraction 
mathematics must have exercised on a man like Descartes, 
on a man whose distinguishing gift it was to discover 
Symbols and Schemes, in other words, to make the 
visible invisible, and the invisible visible. Yet, if we 
wish to understand Descartes' personal method of per- 
ception, it is important that we should be accurately 
instructed as to his position in regard to mathematics, 
and that is just where our school-books lead us astray. 
In order, therefore, to be able to speak of Descartes' 
mathematical achievements, my first business must be 
to dispel the common, and almost without exception 
ruling, misunderstanding about Descartes' conception of 
mathematics, and about the place which they occupy in 
his whole thought. This is the only way in which we 
can extricate ourselves out of the jungle of meaningless 
phrases into the free Pamir of clear insight. 

In our scientific knowledge of Nature mathematics 
play the part of the mechanism which electric engineers 
call a commutator or current reverser. As soon as we 
succeed in arriving at phenomena, even should it be in 
so arbitrary and contradictory a way as was the case 
with Newton in his doctrine of gravitation, the game 
is won ; we go on turning the current, i.e. the perceived 
into the conceptible, and the conceptible into perception, 
exactly as in the (a+b)*. The one helps the other forward, 
and so we are ever rising higher and higher, 1 and that 
without ever falling into error, for the simple reason that 
we are only working within our own intellect, and so 
make images and thoughts take their proper places in 
regard to one another. That was what Descartes, after 



DESCARTES 245 

Plato, was the first to see ; he it is who endowed us with 
the thought of analytical geometry, with which we shall 
immediately busy ourselves more closely: yet he did 
not remain caught in the meshes of purely mathematical 
ideas, but his masterful intellect stretched out far above 
the science of mathematics. If it is absurd to follow 
Schopenhauer in representing Descartes as undervaluing 
mathematics, so it is hardly less full of misunderstanding 
and misleading to exaggerate the significance of mathe- 
matics in his thought and for his philosophy. The image 
of the aether and the thought of the law of Inertia are 
sufficient proof that his development of this mathe- 
matical juggling only served him as a preliminary exercise, 
and so he holds that it is to be understood by others, as 
his R&gles pour la direction de I'esprit clearly set out. 
The doctrine of numbers and forms does not contain 
truths ; rather is it in one respect quite empty, the emptiest 
thing that one can imagine : for in it neither is perception 
nourished by comprehensions from outside, nor do its 
conceptive gymnastics allow of enrichment by special 
thoughts ; mathematics are simply a system of formal 
principles of perception and the concatenation of con- 
ceptions. 39 Descartes is continually laughing at the 
professional calculateurs and gfometres, and says that 
their business is de s'occuper de bagatelles. Open any 
work on philosophical history, you will find every- 
where that Descartes declared that mathematics axe the 
" origin and source of all truths." Nothing has done so 
much to turn good brains amongst us from Descartes as 
this reputed saying. For what is one to think. at so silly 
an assertion at best a sort of mythical Pythagorean 
symbol of Nature, something which was in truth further 
from this man than from all others ? And yet no man 
doubts the authenticity of the position, otherwise it 
would not be quoted with the usual inverted commas in 
one learned German w.ork after another, and the whole 



246 DESCARTES 

thing is just a matter of mistranslation. The passage in 
question occurs in the Xlth volume, p. 219, of Cousin's 
edition. Descartes has just set out the first principles of 
his Method, which he reduces to" two principles only : 
first and foremost, and as indispensable, the clear percep- 
tion of the object (I'intuition) ; next, as second, the con- 
sistent and unbroken deduction of the propositions (la 
deduction). Here the perception of the senses and under- 
standing appear in their first and most elementary relation- 
ship. 40 Still their reciprocally conditioning interplay 
cannot but lead us much further. So Descartes points to 
Mathematics as an example, and as the only safe schooling 
for the application of this quite universally adopted 
Method, mathematics which he holds to be incomparable 
and indispensable as an exercise of the alliance between 
the most manifest perception and the strictest logic 
and then comes the sentence which has given rise to the 
misunderstanding to which I have alluded : je suis 
convaincu qu'ette est superieure d tout autre moyen humain 
de conna&re, parce qu'ette est Vorigine et la source de toutes 
Us verites. The pronoun elle refers to the Method, the 
great universal Method, the Method of the reversion of 
the current, not to Mathematics ! The Method of 
the reciprocal interpenetration between perception and 
thought is the source of all true knowledge this Method ! 
In no way mathematics by themselves and of themselves, 
of which Descartes on the following page assures us that 
there is nothing more empty. Rien de plus vide. Even 
as a matter of grammar the thing is out of court. Elk 
could not refer to mathematics which are almost always 
spoken of in the plural, and in this very passage are 
without exception given as les mathematiques and ettes. 
How little Descartes was inclined to look upon mathe- 
matics as the " source of all truths " is sufficiently 
manifest from the fact that he reckons les nombres et les 
figures among those ideas qui ne peuvent pas &tre estimees 



DESCARTES 247 

un pur neant> quoique peut-$tre elles n'aient aucune existence 
hors de ma pensee, and that in another place he says of 
them, elks ne peuvent pas etre considerees comme des 
substances, mats settlement comme des termes sous lesquels 
la substance est contenue.* 1 But that is the way in which 
we treat our great men ; instead of adopting an infinitely 
subtle, vivid, pregnant knowledge, we accredit the genius 
with any manner of patent absurdity at which every 
commonplace man runs a tilt with solemn self-satis- 
faction. 42 Just as little truth is there in the fl.ffirma.-Hnn 
that Descartes taught that philosophy was destined to 
become a " universal system of mathematics/' an affirma- 
tion which we in the same way meet everywhere. He, on 
the contrary, called attention to the fact, as Plato had 
already done, that in a series of Sciences, he mentions 
optics, astronomy, mechanics, acoustics, everything must 
at last come to a question of mensuration and figures, and 
this remark leads him to the affirmation that all these 
sciences in combination with geometry and arithmetic 
form tine science mathematique en general, or une 
science matMmatique universelle. But this description 
holds good only in contradistinction to the other sciences, 
and so far from saying that the universal science of 
mathematics is all-embracing, Descartes asserts expressly, 
" I have busied myself so much with it that I think that 
I may henceforth devote myself to higher sciences, 
without having to fear being over-hasty." Descartes 
would have agreed with Kant, " Philosophy makes use 
of mathematics only as an instrument/' For the rest he 
himself clenches the question into a convenient and 
correct formula when he says, "In my method the 
science of mathematics is the husk and not the core/' 

It was indispensable to replace a conception that is 
meaningless and false into the bargain by a true apprecia- 
tion of Descartes' conception. So much for that. There 
is only one more thing which ought to be brought out in 



248 DESCARTES 

this connection, and that is the strong insistence which 
he lays upon perception as the source and fountain of all 
truths, for that is the true conception of Descartes' 
teaching. It would be quite imaginable that a philosopher 
might have set up this " mathematical method," and yet 
have taken the abstract side as his starting-point. 
Descartes did not do that. On the contrary, just as in 
mathematics he takes his stand upon geometry, so he 
consistently insists that perception (Uintmtion as he calls 
it) is the one and only indispensable foundation of all 
knowledge. What he prizes above all in mathematics 
is that " they exercise the phantasy in the right con- 
ception of forms and motions, and so accustom us to 
represent phenomena to ourselves correctly/' 43 It is 
not the least of the achievements of the pioneer that he 
introduced the principle of perception into philosophy in 
the stead of the method of tyrannical and sterile logic 
which up to his time was alone dominant. It you read 
the writings of Descartes, you will at once be struck by 
the frequency with which such expressions as vow daire- 
ment, concevoir fort dairement et fort distinctement, 
imaginer dairement, la conception Zvidente d'un esprit 
sain, etc., occur : the foundation-stone upon which the 
whole of this philosophy rests, is simply clear perception, 
and so it is that the first power of man which must be 
methodically developed, is la perspicacite en envisageant 
distinctement chaque chose, which means, " the piercing 
glance which shows itself herein that we should see 
everything dearly/' Yes ! but " perceptions without 
conceptions are blind " ; it is conceptions that first 
make them intelligible. Thus it is that in Descartes the 
algebra of deduction follows upon the geometry of intuition, 
and that the sagacite & observer rigoureusement I'enchafae- 
ment des choses follows upon perspicacite. It is character- 
istic of geometry that by itself it does not carry us very 
far. It is true that a carefully planned geometrical 



DESCARTES 249 

construction contains all the connections which may later 
be drawn from it, still the eye is clumsy and confused, 
and the more we succeed in converting that which is seen 
into that which is thought in this case connecting forms 
into symbols of figures, the richer will be the results. 
This experience drawn from the practice of mathematics 
was applied by Descartes to all other spheres of thought, 
exacting that we should first see clearly, and then dissect 
with flawless logical keenness. Without a brilliantly 
powerful perception of the material empirical world, no 
true knowledge, nothing but cobwebs of the brain ! 
Without an " algebraically " dexterous analysis of that 
which has been seen clearly and lightly, no true science, 
no philosophy ! It is always the same principle : the 
interplay between understanding and the senses, between 
conception and perception, between Scheme and Symbol. 
And of all importance is the doctrine that perception 
always takes the lead, while logical dissection exclusively 
comes into play in the second place. Pure intuitions of 
reason and pure logical arguments have no value for 
Descartes; they are objectless. In contradistinction to 
the schoolmen not only of his own time, but also of the 
nineteenth century, Descartes declares roundly, " logical 
forms and syllogisms are of absolutely no use for the 
discovery of truth/' " Dialectics are rather a hindrance 
than a help." They can only play a part secondarily, 
only in the analytical investigation of that which has 
been discovered by direct and experimental perception. 44 
That is what Descartes understands by his " mathe- 
matical method/' Fundamentally his attitude towards 
mathematics is precisely the same as that of Plato, who had 
already suspected and preached the intermediary position 
of mathematics, and on that account ascribes to the 
exercise of mathematical methods an incomparable 
significance for the development of the power of know- 
ledge, but nevertheless laughs at the professional mathe- 



250 DESCARTES 

maticians when he says, " they make themselves ridiculous 
with their fussing, as if with their complicated calculations 
and barbarous terminology they were achieving some 
mighty thing, whereas the whole significance of mathe- 
matics lies in the fact that they serve as a medium of 
philosophical thought and as a road leading to know- 
ledge/' 45 Descartes was conscious of this historical 
connection. According to him the thinkers of antiquity 
would have found it impossible to recommend mathe- 
matics as a philosophical instrument, if by them they 
had only understood calculation ; he was more inclined 
to believe qu'ils reconnaissaient une certaine science 
mcdhematique differente de celle de noire age, and it was 
this other science of mathematics which he once more 
took up. 

I think we have now quite intelligibly shown how 
there is no inconsistency in Descartes when he at one and 
the same time declares that there is nothing " more 
empty " than mathematics, and in spite of that holds 
that the philosopher is bound to spend much time over 
their study. And since you now know that when he 
busied himself with mathematics it was not on account 
of any formal whim, not on account of any Pythagorean 
cobwebs of the brain, but on the one hand in the interest 
of the precedence of perception over thought in every in- 
vestigation of nature and mankind, and on the other hand, 
in the interest of the conscious handling of that method 
by which perception and thought reciprocally help one 
another* Since you also are in possession of the com- 
forting assurance that it is no barren philosophy, but 
scientific and living perception of the world that is at 
work here, so I hope that you will have the courage to 
climb one last rocky peak with me where the sharp pure 
air of the glaciers will be wafted around us. If Descartes 
has by others been misunderstood, and has remained 
unrecognised, there is one act of justice rendered to him 



DESCARTES 251 

by every cyclopaedia. He is the first inventor of analytical 
geometry, with, which he revolutionised our whole doctrine 
of geometry and numbers, and gave the impetus to the 
discovery of the so-called higher mathematics, upon 
which again our modern sciences of Physics, Mechanics, 
and Astronomy are based. It is now necessary that you 
should see Descartes, who made his discovery not as 
a professed mathematician, but as an amateur after a few 
months of self-taught studies, at work in this direction ; 
the detestation in which we hold all verbosity, should 
steel you not to rest before you have grasped in its solid 
significance the question which lies at the bottom of our 
observations of to-day. I admit that we shall here have 
to tread the special path of mathematics, and that is 
distasteful to the man who is no mathematician ; yet I 
hope we shall succeed in applying ourselves to the subject 
in such a way that even those who are absolutely ignorant 
of mathematics will be able to see exactly what we are 
driving at. And with this we shall in the first place gain 
the advantage of obtaining a quite exact idea of Descartes' 
individual method of Seeing : in the second place we 
shall gain the knowledge, not merely theoretical but 
absolutely concrete resulting from practical perception, 
that every transition from thought to perception and 
vice versa, even where (as in mathematics only) it 
takes place with absolute precision has in itself some- 
thing artificial and arbitrary, from which it results that 
perception which is thought always remains more or 
less a Scheme, and thought which is perceived always 
remains more or less a Symbol ; last not least, we shall 
be driven on a purely perceptible and therefore entirely 
safe road, to the very central point of that Kantian 
perception to which it is otherwise so difficult to gain 
access, and which is so dark and difficult to illuminate. 
That point is the conception of the Transcendental. In 
this way Kant's method of Seeing the world will no longer 



252 DESCARTES 

be so foreign to us, and we shall have gained in addition 
an advantageous standpoint for a later study of his 
philosophy. For these reasons I urge you to follow me 
for a while in the pure domain of mathematics. 48 



In order that you may make your way with some 
pleasure into the subject of analytical geometry, which 
touches the innermost essence of mathematics, I must at 
the outset tell you what was the aim of this discovery of 
Descartes. It is necessary that you should know this, 
otherwise you would see nothing but a sort of ipse 
dixit in the proceeding, and that might mean astonish- 
ment, but it could not mean understanding. 

With the help of perceptible mathematics, namely 
geometry, simple problems may be solved, but not 
complex problems ; human imagination soon gives up 
the task : a very complicated system of lines and points 
and bodies, which assert themselves in various ways, is 
something which we cannot put with perfect clearness 
before our eyes ; we are not in a position to compare 
differently formed bodies directly with one another ; we 
are not able to see, to recognise with our eyes, the out- 
come of it all. But in a quite different measure we are 
able to deal with the mathematics of conception, that is 
to say with numbers or the symbols of numbers ; for in 
this case the master law-giver is not perception, but 
Logic, and that implies the opportune succession of a 
linked chain of insight into facts, instead of a Present 
only to be deciphered by a direct and simultaneous com- 
bination. If we deal with numbers logically we need 
not trouble ourselves about the perceptible meaning of 
each single operation of calculation ; the correctness of 
the result is the important matter. That is why men 
very early came to reduce lines and rectangular figures 
to numbers, as, for instance, expounding the relationship 



DESCARTES 253 

of the square on one side of a rectangular triangle to the 
squares on the two other sides, not perceptibly by drawing 
figures, but arithmetically and algebraically. But how 
arrive at a universally valid expression in numbers for 
complex figures, such, for instance, as curves ? That was 
the question upon which many men busied themselves, 
and no one found the solution. 

Here it was that Descartes came to the front as a crea- 
tive genius. He perceived that to reduce a curved line to 
a symbolical expression in numbers, the first necessity 
must be to bring the particular curve (circle, ellipse, volute, 
etc.), into relation with straight lines. The next task 
to be solved was the discovery of these straight lines* 
Once solve that difficulty and discover the relations 
between the curved line and the straight line, then what 
was elusive would be brought to a standstill, the curve 
would be bent straight, and the object would be attained ; 
for as you will see presently, straight lines can always be 
considered as numbers (real or symbolical), and a fixed 
relationship between straight lines is therefore at the 
same time an arithmetical relationship. Thus the curve 
which is seen, becomes an unseen, logical, arithmetical 
expression, and can take its place in every arithmetical 
series by means of various calculations. In this Descartes 
succeeded. With simple unconsciousness of the magnitude 
of his achievement the first sentence of his Geometric tells 
us : Tous les problemes de Geometrie se foment facile- 
ment reduire & tels termes qu'ik n'est besoin par apres 
que de connaftre la longueur de quelques lignes droifes pour 
les construire. As coins and watches disappear in the 
hands of a conjurer, so in the hands of Descartes the 
visible became invisible, the geometrical, arithmetical. 
But you will at once remark that with this achievement 
the inversion was of necessity given at the same time. 
For it was only necessary to strike into the opposite 
direction, and at once we were in possession of a form 



254 DESCARTES 

for every futile arithmetical formula ! Here you have 
the whole Descartes. Goethe declares that man can wrest 
from Nature nothing more valuable than 

Wenn sie ihm qffenbare, 
Wie sie das Feste lasst zu Gdst vert innen^ 
Wie sie das Geistrerzeugte fest bewahre 

" When she reveals to him how she lets the substantial 
lapse into the Spirit, how she preserves as substance 
that which is the child of the spirit." 

Since Descartes has pervaded the life of man as teacher, 
there has been no geometrical form which we have not 
been able to let " lapse into Spirit," that is to say, turn 
into an arithmetical expression, into an equation merely 
thought, no arithmetical picture "child of the Spirit" 
which we have not been able to convert to something 
seen, something substantial. That is the essence of 
analytical Geometry. 

Now we may proceed to a closer exposition. 

I hope that you are not scared either by Greek words 
or by the jargon of mathematics. Both are accessible 
if you only approach them in the right spirit. Greek was 
once spoken in a sunny land, spoken by men who 
possessed the immeasurable luck not to be forced, as we 
are, to gag their spiritual life into dead idioms, men 
among whom the sage drew his words from the same 
living well as the shepherd, and so was understood by all : 
and as regards mathematics this discipline by the applica- 
tion of the right method, was capable of being brought 
home even to the least gifted, at any rate in a certain 
measure, for mathematical ideas are common to us all, 
and in their essence elementary. La faciliU supreme is 
what Descartes praises in all true mathematics. 

Analysis comes from avoXveiv, a word which means to, 
unloose and also to set free : it signifies therefore the 
unloosing of a single perception into simpler component 
parts, the setting free of the 'elements out of a com- 



DESCARTES 255 

bination. That is why the resolution of any body into 
materials which are not capable of further disintegration 
is called " Analysis." In mathematics the word implies 
in the same way the disintegration of a given proposition 
into its component parts. You will, however, at once 
meet me with the question, How can one disintegrate 
figures into component parts ? To represent to myself 
70 as 10 times 7, or as 58 plus 12, or as 210 divided 
by 3, is a purely arbitrary proceeding in my brain. The 
number 70 or 7000 or 7,000,000 is just as simple and 
just as impossible of disintegration as 7 or i. Certainly ; 
and yet it is just as capable of disintegration, for the 
number I is capable of disintegration ad infinitum so 
soon as it pleases me to look upon it as a product. The 
same holds good of figures ; a circle is a circle, a globe 
a globe, a pyramid a pyramid, each positively a symbol 
of unity : still I am able to imagine the globe as actually 
consisting of segments which have grown together, as in 
the case of the orange, and in accordance with that I am 
also able to take it to pieces. I can think of the circle as 
a line rotating round one of its extremities, or as a variety 
of an ellipse, or as a slice taken out of a cylinder or a 
cone, or as the place of an endless number of coincident 
equilateral triangles with the same vertical point, and 
in fifty other ways besides. In this way the structural 
unity is at my bidding set free into multitude. I find 
myself within the domain of pure human will. Here 
there is no such practical concrete analysis as there is in 
chemistry, where by mechanical methods of attack I 
can resolve a combined body into several qualitatively 
different component parts, nor is there any operation 
analogous to philosophical " analytics/* in which com- 
plicated ideas and conceptions are reduced to the dements 
of which they are composed : but mathematical analysis 
is the autocratic setting free of a given magnitude into 
several other magnitudes for purely practical reasons, in 



256 DESCARTES 

order, that is to say, in that way better to calculate, and 
this end is attained as soon as the original idea in space 
has been reduced to an expression in which there is 
neither space, nor possibility of representation, an 
expression which is in accord with numbers. In a wider 
sense the converse process belongs also to mathematical 
analysis, the construction of a superficial image or of 
a solid body out of a combination of numbers. It had 
already occurred to the Greeks of later times to transfer 
to the realm of numerical calculation geometrical problems 
which it was difficult or impossible to solve by direct 
means. But the next point was one which they did not 
attain, for it was contrary to the genius of that people to 
convert the visible into the invisible, and therefore they 
made no great progress in that direction. In contradistinc- 
tion to the Greeks the Aryan Indian achieved his best work 
in the logical calculation of conceptions (arithmetic and 
algebra) : but he lacked that geometrical eye which is 
dominant in matters of form. It was the Teuton who 
was the first to possess the right intellectual aptitude for 
this twofold work, and Descartes was the one and only 
man who stood so exactly upon the boundary liue that, 
without being a mathematician, and after a short period 
of study, he by pure instinct forced the door through 
which hundreds and thousands dashed after him. Car en 
mathematiques he says in the last sentence of his 
Geometric lorsqu'on a les deux ou trois premiers termes, 
il n'est pas malaise de trouver les autres. Et fespere qw 
nos neveux me sauront gr, non settlement des choses que 
j'ai id expliquees, mais aussi de celles que j'ai omises 
volontairement, afin de leur laisser le plaisir de les inventer. 
Descartes, as I have said, set to work with the utmost 
simplicity. He was in the twenties, and an officer ; in 
order to fill the leisure of winter quarters, and because he 
had remarked that the study of the mathematical sciences 
is of incomparable methodical value (elles accoutwmew 



DESCARTES 257 

Vetprit d se repattre de verites),* 7 he undertook to take a 
bird's-eye view of this discipline. But he had always 
abominated numbers, the wading about in a sea of end- 
less calculations ; pour ce qui est des nombres je riai 
jamais pretendu d'y rien savoir, he writes to his mathe- 
matical confessor Pere Mersenne ; he belongs to the 
open-eyed division of mankind; mathematics are for 
him the science of forms and motions : his repugnance to 
arithmetic is so strong that it is only geometrically that 
he establishes all its operations, addition, subtraction, 
division, multiplication, even the extraction of Roots. 
Toutes ces operations doivent etre ramenees d I'examen de 
I' imagination, et il faut les figurer aux yeux, pour ensuite 
en expliquer V usage et la pratique.** But Descartes soon 
remarked that mathematics as taught by the professors 
are a prosy, dull affair, a compound of many parts : he 
despaired of learning them in this way, and of making 
them into a living knowledge. And yet, he said to him- 
self, all these branches of mathematics deal with the same 
thing, the relation of magnitudes to one another: a 
plague upon all their Geometry and arithmetic ! I shall 
henceforth only fix my eyes directly upon these relative 
magnitudes : je pensai qu'il valait mieux que j'examinasse 
settlement ces proportions en gen&ral. 

Of course you understand what he means by the word 
proportions. It may be a matter of comparison of absolute 
magnitude between similarly formed bodies ; that is the 
simplest case, and always without more ado to be referred 
to the difference of numbers, in other words to arithmetic ; 
but the comparison may also be the relation to one 
another of different forms, and this is what is so actively 
present to Descartes* In this case it is not a question of 
whether a thing is great or small, but of the forms which 
are possible to our phantasy, seeing that each is different 
from the other, and without the absolute magnitude 
coming under observation. The circle is a form differing 
i. s 



258 DESCARTES 

from the square, it is also a form differing from the 
ellipse or the volute. The same holds good of a globe, a 
cube, a pyramid. They are different forms. Humanly 
speaking each one of these forms is subject to a special 
law, or if you prefer it a special thought, and this thought 
is a fixed relation to the extension in space towards the 
various directions. Goethe says of the perception of 
natural objects, " There is in the Object something of an 
unknown law which corresponds to the unknown law in the 
Subject." 49 In geometrical forms we supply both object 
and subject, and thence the idea of law is at once a matter 
of compelling strictness and of boundless elasticity. A 
ball of the size of the planet Jupiter is, as a matter of 
thought, as like a billiard ball as two hairs are to each other, 
for the reason that the relative proportions are the same : 
the comparison of the two is exhaustively expressed by a 
simple arithmetical proportional equation : 

a : b=x : % 

a, the billiard ball, is in relation to 6 (Jupiter) as i to % 
(the requisite number). But, on the contrary, we are 
dealing with a quite different sort of comparison if I hold 
the billiard ball and the cue together, and do not wish 
simply to establish the relative bulk of the two, for which 
a pair of scales would suffice, but to bring into comparative 
relation the law of form of the one, and the law of form 
of the other, that is to say, reduce them to an equation 
of mutual relation. All this, the interrelation of magni- 
tudes and the interrelation of forms, is what Descartes 
speaks of as proportions. What he asserts is this, that the 
different branches of mathematics ultimately ne con* 
sid&rent outre chose que les diverses proportions qui s'y 
trouvent. And inasmuch as the monotony of mere 
arithmetic is repugnant to him, and he is wearied by the 
calculations incident to the geometry of solids, he just 
asks himself one question : What will be the simplest 



DESCARTES 259 

way for me to compare different forms with one another ? 
The answer is, by reducing the problem to one of the 
relations of various straight lines to one another, d cause 
que je ne trouvais rien de plus simple ni que je pusse plus 
distinctement representer a mon imagination et d mes sens. 
You see then the first and constant thing postulated is 
something which can be represented, clearly represented, 
obvious to the senses. Yes. But supposing that I should 
analyse many forms in this way, I shall obtaiij. a whole 
forest of lines. How can I carry them in my memory ? 
And how can I continue my investigations of their 
reciprocal interrelations ? For this purpose the lines 
must be reduced to an expression in numbers : il fallait 
que je les expliquasse par quelques chiffres, les plus courts 
qu'il serait possible. And he ends by saying, je pensais 
que par ce moyen j'emprunterais tout le meilleur de la 
geometrie et de ValgSbre, et corrigerais tons les defauts de 
Vune par I'autre. 

You now know how it was that the idea of analytical 
geometry arose in the intellect of Descartes, and in what 
form it floated before him. It contains absolutely 
nothing abstruse or learned which need scare us laymen. 
On the contrary, it was in direct opposition to the pro- 
fessorial men of science that Descartes invented his 
method, and in answer to a friend who communicates to 
him attacks from all sides on his geometry, he writes, 
J'aurais mauvaise opinion de mes pensees, sije voyais que 
les doctes les approuvassent. I imagine that you will 
already have remarked what is the turning-point of the 
whole method. It is the establishment of the line as 
intermediate between form and Numbers. And this 
means exactly : it is the discovery of that point where- 
in the doctrine of magnitudes, sense and understanding, 
perception and thought merge into one another, \flhere the 
visible becomes invisible, and vice versa. In a late work, 
which unfortunately remained unfinished, the Regies 



260 DESCARTES 

pour la direction de V esprit, Descartes very clearly laid 
down this mediatory principle of his : par les lignes il 
faut representer tantot des grandeurs continues (i.e. forms) 
tantot la pluralite et le nombre ; Vindustrie humaine ne 
peut rien trowver de plus simple pour exposer toutes les 
differences des rapports ; so the relation between the 
straight lines stands exactly in the middle, pointing on 
one side to the visible form, on the other to the essence 
of abstract numbers. 

We are now sufficiently equipped to start upon the 
concrete observation of analytical geometry. But I 
have to insist that what follows must be treated as a 
series of ideas without your ever for a moment being 
contented with thought alone, as apart from ocular 
demonstration. 

Surely it is plain to the eyes that I can, if I so choose, 
conceive every straight line as a number ? For example, 
if three straight lines stand in relation to one another as 
5, 4, and 3 (it is immaterial whether we are speaking of 
yards, or feet, or metres, or miles), I can call them simply 
5, 4, and 3, and so calculate with them : every builder 
does that daily, and that is really geometrical analysis, 
for it is the conversion of a conception in space into a 
number which has nothing to do with space. But your 
builder now goes a step further. Supposing that the line 
5 represents the one side of the house which is to be 
built quadrilaterally and that the builder wishes to 
know the size of the area for his work^ there is no need 
for him to measure it with his measuring tape, nor to set 
it out on paper : the required area results from the sxim 
5 times 5. This sum 5 times 5 is what the science of 
arithmetic calls the square of 5, or 5 2 , or 5 in the second 
power. And if the house were to be of the same height as 
the breadth, the builder need only write 5 8 that is to say, 
5 times 5 multiplied by 5, and he would know exactly 
what would be the space included in the cube-shaped 



DESCARTES 



261 



house. If the sides of the house are unequal, he has to 
multiply the one by the other as a X 6, then by the height, 
c, and with this a b c he has at once at his command all 
the conjuring tricks known to him by the study of 
arithmetical logic, without reference to the concrete 
house which has to be built. 






" 






a 

For as soon as I have written down the numbers instead 
of the line or the area or the body, the visible form fades 
away a * is simply the number a multiplied by itself, 
b 9 is 6 multiplied by itself and then again by the product, 
a b c the multiplication of the numbers a, b, and c with one 
another. 50 The form absolutely disappears, and only the 



262 DESCARTES 

measurements remain. Up to this point the matter is 
simplicity itself. But if you examine your power of 
imagination, it will soon answer that of all forms it is 
only those that are rectangular that allow themselves 
to be reduced in this simple way to lines, and consequently 
again resolved into numbers, whether these rectangles be 
plain or solid. All these rectangular forms can be imagined 
as originating in the rectilinear movement of limited 
straight lines, and this rectilinear movement may, like 
the straight line itself, be expressed as number without 
further trouble. If I say a I name the line : if I say a 2 
I name the superficies which comes into existence when 
a moves lengthwise along its length ; if I say # 3 I am 
naming the cube which arises when this superficies 
moves upwards to the length of a. The same thing 
takes place in the case of rectangles with unequal sides ; 
we can represent all of these to ourselves as proceeding 
from the movement of two or, as the case may be, three 
lines of different lengths. Thus a b is the movement of 
a along 6, and a b c is the movement of the superficies 
a b along c. The line is therefore comprehensible as a 
number (explete or symbolical), and what is perceived as 
the movement of this line is to be understood as the 
multiplication of the number : a* is the multiplication of 
the number by itself, a b the multiplication of the number 
by another number. Therefore, inasmuch as rectangular 
figures can without more ado he reduced to single straight 
lines and to single rectilinear movements, it is easy to 
reduce them to an expression in numbers. The numbers 
5, 4, 3, or the letters a, b, c, correspond to the length of 
the component lines, and what we call exponents, that is 
to say, those smaller cyphers which Descartes taught us to 
write above and to the right of the larger figures, for 
that was his invention, denote the movement of the 
lines. As soon as you conceive of the matter as visible* 
these algebraic figures are shorn of all their abstract 



DESCARTES 263 

terrors. The small 2, as in a 2 , points to a simple movement 
out of which only a superficies arises, therefore a space 
of two dimensions, hence the 2 ; the small 3 points to a 
double movement, and consequently to a solid body, that 
is to say, a form of three dimensions, hence the 3. When 
therefore I reduce rectangular figures to the measurement 
of length and indications of movement, denoting the 
measurement by ordinary cyphers, and add the move- 
ments by small cyphers written in above, as exponents, 
I have obtained a very simple expression which I can, at 
will, look upon as a visible form, or as an arithmetical 
conception. But how am I to deal with forms which are 
not rectangular ? Question your own sound natural 
power of conception. Unless a man be a second Descartes 
he will have difficulty in finding the answer. 

Not to extend this mathematical excursus too far, we 
will only take into consideration one single case, that of 
the curves in a plane, that is to say, of such curves as you 
may draw upon a sheet of paper, and which correspond 
proportionally to the rectangular superficies. How can 
these curved lines be made capable of a similar solution 
into arithmetical magnitudes ? Without the help of 
straight lines the transition from curves to numbers is 
unthinkable. Numbers have no analogy in any shape 
with visible things, beyond on the one hand the circum- 
stantial analogy with objects exhibited side by side, 
and on the other hand with straight lines. This second 
analogy is not, as you might think, drawn from the first, 
but arises out of the essence of numbers which are to be 
thought of as a rectilinear continuation. The numbers 
5, 6, 7, are essentially identical in their nature, only 6 
is longer than 5 and shorter than y. 61 The curve, on the 
other hand, is an idea which arithmetical conception can 
never reach: it lacks the necessary pliability. The 
essence of the curve is form, the essence of arithmetic is 
indifference to form. It is therefore only the straight 



264 DESCARTES 

line that can be of any assistance in the task of converting 
form into numbers. For we may define the straight line 
as follows : it is the only line which even if it be produced 
to infinity creates no form. It is pure magnitude and 
pure numbers. How then can I bend into pure formless 
magnitude and pure comprehensible numbers magnitude 
which is possessed of form and numbers conditioned by 
form, and at the same time locked in form ? Here, too, 
I can only succeed if I reduce form to movement, but 
even so the movement must be rectilinear. 

Take a ruler : let a slider with a pencil slide to and 
fro from one end to the other on this ruler, and let this 




pencil be placed perpendicularly to the ruler in a capsule 
which may be drawn out and compressed at pleasure : if 
you hold the ruler immovably on a sheet of paper you 
are able to draw the most complicated curves with the 
point of the pencil, as you, on the one hand, push along 
the ruler the sliding capsule which carries the pencil, 
and on the other hand, by lengthening and shortening the 
distance between the pencil's point and the ruler. You 
must now consider the resulting visible curve as being 
produced by the length of the ruler and the pencil ; and 
as a matter of fact that is what it is. So this curve 
expresses the varying relation between three straight 
lines, of which the one, the ruler, has retained its length 
unaltered, while the two others which express the length 



DESCARTES 265 

of the pencil and the position of the slider on the ruler, 
have been changeable. Looked upon purely from the 
mechanical point of view, that is the proceeding of Des- 
cartes in the analytical dissection of a curve. It was with 
the help of such considerations and instruments that he 
arrived at his thought. You see how this man is always 
and everywhere wandering on the boundary line. The 
problem as a whole deals with the conversion of the 
visible into the invisible and vice versa. Its solution he 
arrives at by a perpetual shifting to and fro of the ideas 
of rest and movement. For the curve which he wishes to 
" analyse," the circle, the ellipse, the spiral, the volute, 
etc., is in the first place something granted, a symbol of 
that which is perfected, eternal, immovable. But next he 
considers how he may regard it as arising out of the 
movement of straight lines, and thus rest becomes move- 
ment. Then there is the return of movement into rest. 
For these lines in motion serve to attain an immovable 
arithmetical expression. 

A concrete example will at once show how Descartes 
obtains the straight lines for a given curve, and out of 
the lines an arithmetical expression. I choose for the 
purpose the simplest curve in a plane, the circle. 

With the help of a piece of packthread and a piece of 
blue chalk I draw a circle on the wall. Our circle is 
obtained by turning a straight line round one of its ends : 
that, however, gives us nothing available for analysis, 
which needs the relation to one another of several lines. 
This causes Descartes to refer the generative law of this 
fixed figure to the relation between one immutable 
straight line of an ascertained length and two other 
movable lines (cf . our immovable ruler with the movable 
pencil attached to it). Only you must not for a moment 
imagine as regards the construction, which is the result, 
that it possesses any thinkable significance in nature, 
outside the human brain, or that in practice a circle can 



266 DESCARTES 

come into existence in that manner ; Descartes only 
delineates it, because it is his pleasure to do so, because 
the thing can be thought of in that way, and because all 
sorts of amusing results arise out of it. Well then, how 
does Descartes set to work ? He accepts the circle as 
given, within it he draws two straight lines perpendicular 
to one another, and the feat is done. The one line the 
most important one he draws from the circumference 
to the centre. For the sake of greater clearness I draw 
the line horizontally, but I might if I chose draw it in 
any other position. This line is always called R, from the 
initial letter of the Latin word Radius which signifies 
the spoke of a wheel, and later was adopted into scientific 
language as a description of the half of the diameter of 
the circle. Descartes had all the more reason for retaining 
the sign R in that the French word for the half-diameter 
is Rayon, and the Germans have only to think of their 
own original word Radspeiche (the spoke) for the R to 
lose all the evil taste of the dust of the schools. This line 
R is a fixed, immutable, ascertained mathematical 
magnitude. If the circle is a concrete and present figure 
I can measure it with a yard measure : if we are only 
dealing with the form of the circle in general, I cannot 
represent any length in cyphers, but the line R is none 
the less a recognised, immutable magnitude, that is to 
say, in relation to whatever may be the circular line of 
which it denotes the half-diameter. Well then, upon this 
immutable line I set up at right angles to it a second line 
which, inasmuch as it is an unknown magnitude, I call y, 
and which I represent to myself as movable upon R, 
that is to say, which I can move to and fro upon R, from 
one end to the other, exactly as we did just now with our 
pencil. But this second line ,is not only movable, but 
also of variable length. In every single place, that is to 
say along the whole length of R, its length differs ; and 
indeed the organic relation between its length and ,its 



DESCARTES 267 

place is settled by the curve in question, in this case 
therefore by the line of the circle, inasmuch as we always 
produce this line y to the periphery of the circle by which 
we allow it to be cut off. If, therefore, this movable line 
is raised at the inmost point of R, that is to say, at the 
centre of the circle, it becomes itself a half-diameter and 
its length equals that of the line R ; that is the maximum 
length which it can attain ; if on the contrary it is set up 
at the outermost point of R, it is immediately cut off by 
the circumference line, and its length becomes zero. 
Between zero and a length equal to R the line y can have 
every conceivable measurement. And, as a mere glance 
at the diagram will show, its length will everywhere be 
determined by its place, and its place by its length. One 
word more and then we shall have gathered all that we 
want. The line R is, as we know, immutable : but it now 
contains a movable element, namely the point at which 
the movable line y is erected. You need only think of 
the slider in our mechanical example. I will now make 
use of the centre of the circle as a starting-point, and 
from that measure the lines to the point where the line 
y meets the line R, and this line I will call x. Since y 
moves along R this line x is manifestly variable and its 
value, as a single glance at the diagram will show, will 
always dimmish or increase in an inverse ratio to that of 
y. If y is at the centre, x dwindles away at once to zero. 
If y is at the outer end of the Radius, % becomes equal to 
R. x is, as you see, in the same case asy ; its length value 
can take every step between zero and the length of R ; 
but, in addition, its value must always of necessity be 
conditioned by y. As a result of this construction we 
have now three values, of which one, R, is immutable and 
the two others, x and y , are mutable. What unites these 
three values into one organic relation to one another, is 
first their fixed reciprocal position in space, secondly 
their fixed relation to the centre-point and to the peri- 



268 



DESCARTES 



phery of the circle by which they are bounded. Now as 
these values stand in a relation to the circle, so too does 
the circle stand in a relation to them, and in this way they 
will serve us to gain an expression for the curve in lines, 
and that means in numbers. This relation we can 
describe in the following very simple fashion : 




That is to say, expressed in words, the square on R, no 
matter whether the circle be great or small, and no 
matter what may be the position of y, is always equal to 
the square on y multiplied by the square of x. But you 
must not be led astray if this equation talks of squares : 
for R, x, and y, are lines, and the exponent 2 points, as 
you will remember, to the movement of a line along its 
own length ; every one of these three squares is therefore 



DESCARTES 269 

resolved by this formula into a line and a movement : 
but the line as well as the movement can be compre- 
hended without more ado as a number ; consequently 
that representation of a visible geometrical relation is at 
the same time, if we choose, an algebraical equation, and 
that means a purely arithmetical expression. As such 
it belongs to the protean domain of abstract mathematics, 
" thought without contents " ; it is conception without 
perception, and so gains in pliability and logical multi- 
plicity of significations what it loses in visibility. This 
algebraical equation (jR 2 =# 2 +.y 2 ) is the analysis of that 
flat curve which we call a circle. 

I have no intention of stopping to furnish a proof of 
the correctness of this affirmation that R 2 x*+y* t It 
is very easily demonstrated geometrically, and is to be 
found in Euclid (as the Pythagorean proposition). Its 
interest for us only lies in the fundamental idea of Des- 
cartes, the idea of the resolution of* the visible relations 
of measurement and form into invisible, abstract arith- 
metical relations. Any one who is interested in the 
matter can construct the proof empirically with the help 
of a circle and a millimetre measure. Nor shall I wait to 
show that there are other analytical equations which can 
be made up in behoof of the circle, and that for many 
other curves, as also for the analysis of bodies of three 
dimensions, a far more circumstantial process is needed ; 
the principle remains the same. Moreover, my conscience 
pricks me in that I have not led you precisely on the 
same way as that which Descartes followed, and because 
I have been so bold as to exhibit analytical geometry in 
a manner completely different from that ordinarily 
adopted. You can read Descartes, if you are able, for 
his Gfometrie is not easy, inasmuch as he wrote it with 
purposeful obscurity in order to avoid plagiarisms ; 52 
or you can take up that beautiful monument of German 
industry, Cantor's Vorlesungen iiber ,Ge$ckickte der mathe- 



370 DESCARTES 

matik, if you wish to make acquaintance with pure 
mathematics in their historical development. In neither 
place will you meet with my exposition ; if I have 
failed, this hint may be taken as an apology. 63 If I have 
taken my own road it has been because I had a goal of 
my own in view* My peculiar way of looking at the 
subject grew out of our precedent course of thought, to 
which it now carries us back. Let me therefore, in closing 
this mathematical excursus, only say briefly that this 
algebraical analysis of geometrical perceptions is the 
foundation of almost the whole immense development 
of modern mathematics, and with them of all physics. 
The expert mathematician, it may be said, sees in his 
mind's eye, in such a scheme as R*=x*+y 2 , things 
which otherwise he would never have seen in the mere 
visible symbol of the circle. True, the seen curve has 
faded away, but in its place that creative law of form, as 
we have called it, appears perhaps even more distinct, 
at any rate as a stimulus to new thoughts. The analytical 
equation is to the mathematician what the ground plan 
is to the architect ; unintelligible to the layman, such a 
manner of schematising reveals to the expert things 
which he would never have been able to see in the con- 
crete : that is to say, it leads him to the discovery of 
relations between the different forms which no power of 
perception would have been able to reach and he has 
only to discover another, cleverly chosen, algebraical 
formula for his curve, in order to obtain an elevation in 
addition to his ground plan. He is now also in a position 
to investigate the properties of forms which, on account 
of their great complications, would be beyond the power 
of the eye to unravel, and perhaps impossible to re- 
present mechanically. Thanks to this method, he has 
reached a point where he can investigate the properties 
of figures of four dimensions, as well as of others that 
are beyond the power of imagination. 



DESCARTES 271 

You see that this road leads to the deepest depths of 
metaphysics, but at the same time and in the same 
measure to the contemplation of the unseen. For now 
all equations can be converted into form, and with 
the help of two lines which exactly correspond to the 
R and y of our example, dreary, dull rows of cyphers, 
such, for instance, as statistics, are conjured into curves 
which at once furnish every layman with intelligible ideas, 
and allow the mathematician to penetrate the mysterious 
laws to which Phenomena are obedient. 64 

We need go no further now. Let me add a general 
survey. 

What Descartes' intervention has signified for mathe- 
matics in general may, I think, be summed up in a 
remark which at the same time points directly to that 
which we have had in view in this excursus. We might 
indeed, unless I am mistaken, show that the peculiar 
duplex character of the infinitesimal calculus, called into 
life by Descartes and followed up under his instigation by 
Ferrat, Pascal, Barrow, Newton, Leibniz, the brothers 
Bernouilli, and others, rests upon the fact that it stands 
with one foot in perception, with the other in abstraction. 
To grasp the fundamental conception of the infinitesimal 
calculus (that is to say, remember, as " thought "), is so 
infinitely difficult, not to say impossible, that Carnot, 
one of the most competent of specialists, assures us that 
very many professional mathematicians have not under- 
stood the significance of their own calculations ; yet as a 
consolation he adds : il est certaines id&es primitives qui 
laissent toujours quelque nuage dans I'esprit, mais dont les 
premieres consequences une fois tirfos, ouvrent an champ 
vaste et facile d parcourir. Historically the infinitesimal 
calculus grew out of the observation of geometrical 
problems, and out of the lucky inspiration to consider 
these as phenomena of motion: far from being an 
abstraction, this mode of calculation is unthinkable 



272 DESCARTES 

unless we take the perception of the senses as a starting- 
point. Infinitely small magnitudes are magnitudes that 
the eye no longer can see, but only the conception can 
still imagine : the transition from sensibility to under- 
standing takes place here materially : the calculation by 
letters penetrates like a microscope where the object 
fades before the naked eye, and communicates " imaginary 
images " to the brain (see page 74 seq.). Perception and 
abstraction are both of them moving in a region near 
the central line of demarcation. Up to Descartes' time, 
then, mathematics had, so to say, always been hopping 
upon one leg, either in perception or in abstraction. He 
taught them to stride forward vigorously on both feet ; 
the start in mathematics could not long be delayed. We 
too to-day, within our modest limits shall gain a similar 
advantage. 



We have now come to an end of the constructive part 
of this lecture. It would be delightful to f oUow Descartes 
still further; the proud, angular, domineering, and at 
the same time aristocratically reserved and sensitive 
nature of this thinker, fills us with respect and sympathy, 
and there would still be much to bring forward about 
him and his life in amplification and correction of the 
known descriptions of him ; something of this will 
perhaps, now that we are quite accurately informed as 
to the principles of his method of perception, weave itself 
in automatically in the further course of our studies. 
But at this moment another duty lies before us, that is 
to say, to turn to account the sum of our labours of to-day 
for the recognition of Kant's intellectual aptitudes. 56 

It is the fashion, wrong as a matter of method, to 
start from the simplest point, from that which analysis 
shows as the simplest component parts. Far rather 
should that which is best known serve as starting-point 



DESCARTES 273 

in expositions and explanations, whether it be com- 
plicated or simple. This is the only way in which direct 
perception, with that power of persuasion of which it 
has the monopoly, can maintain its rights. That is why 
I chose as the main theme of my first lecture the conflict 
between Idea and Experience. In that way we certainly 
gripped the problem of perception by the most complex 
and difficult phenomenon that it perhaps ever exhibits. 
But the advantage was just this, that we at once faced 
the whole, that is to say, that which is living, true, and 
sure, as it is common and well known to us all. We all 
have our experiences and our ideas, and even if we are 
not accustomed to analyse them, one word is enough, 
and every one knows what we are talking about ; and 
even though Goethe's perceptions and Goethe's ideas 
were of an august nature, they none the less spoke 
directly to our understanding, and that which was 
perceptible might almost have filled the whole lecture. 
Next, however, we followed Goethe's advice to " work 
our way out of the whole into the parts " ; in the second 
lecture we grasped the problem more closely on both 
sides, when we made the conflict between the pure form 
of all perception and the empirical material of perception 
our chief subject of study. Simple, and apparently easy 
to survey, was the relation between the two in the plastic 
artist, who kept before his eyes the scheme of his under- 
standing, half pure and half perceptible, in order that he 
might see more exactly, that is to say, in order to "think" 
more clearly that which was seen, to comprehend it more 
exactly : far more complicated did it become, harder, 
that is to say, to expound, and so also harder rightly to 
grasp, as soon as the understanding drew the pheno- 
menon over to itself, so that the pure scheme of the 
senses became the main point, whilst the empirical 
phenomenon itself, or at any rate its foundation in the 
perception of the senses, paled almost to fading away. 

L- T 



274 DESCARTES 

Calling to our support the conflict between physical 
optics and Goethe's doctrine of colours, we tried to gain 
as clear an explanation as possible of these relations. 
To-day a new conflict has arisen before us, no longer the 
one between pure perception and empirical perception, 
but that between perception as a function of the senses, 
and conceptible thought as a function of the under- 
standing. Carefully considered, this conflict is far 
simpler than that between idea and experience, and even 
in its essence easier to grasp than that between pure and 
empirical ; what makes it difficult to unravel is the 
complex interlocking of the parts : what I have had 
before me to-day as my chief aim has been to arrive at 
a clear conception upon this point ; no man in the whole 
history of the world could render us such conspicuous 
service in this as Descartes. 

You must know that with the help of Descartes we 
have become acquainted with a way of seeing, a recog- 
nition, a conviction, a view, a method, call it what you 
will which is absolutely fundamental for Kant's philos- 
ophy. And this point is just the one of all others which 
is looked upon as the darkest in his philosophy ; it is the 
pons asinomm before which the great majority of the 
flighty searchers after knowledge turn tail and not they 
alone ! I could name a worthy modern student and editor 
of Kant, who only so far masters the difficulties which 
are to him insuperable, that he declares roundly that this 
fundamental thought of Kant's " has no scientific value," 
and therefore that it is not worth while to break one's 
head over what Kant may have meant : indeed that the 
whole difficulty was only an " invention " of Kant's 
Guter Mut, halbe Arbeit, says the proverb, and so appar- 
ently thought the learned Professor. Still we look at the 
matter from another point ; happily it is not my business 
to explain the famous and dreaded chapter of -the Kritik 
for reinen Vernunft Von dem Schematismus der reinen 



DESCARTES 275 

Verstandesbegriffe I have only to show in the commonest 
outline those foundations of perception which later, in 
the artistic connection of the system, go to the greatest 
depths, and are therefore the subjects of the most secret 
exposition. " Unhappy is the speaking man," cries 
Emerson. " If I speak I define, I confine, and am less." 
This " unhappiness of the speaking man " Kant had to 
experience : still he would not consent to make his 
thoughts less, the crabbed genius of truth forbade it ; 
and so they became dark, dark as the powers which rise 
in the growing life of the golden-cocooned chrysalis ; he 
who does not call eyes and heart to his help will never 
understand this thinker and will never, freed from the 
darkness of the pupa, fly aloft with him on the wings of a 
new knowledge. But to-day, as I said before, our office 
is far more modest, and I am glad to be able to give the 
surprising assertion that we have achieved our task, and 
we now need only recapitulate it briefly, systematically, 
and with peculiar reference to Kant. 

Descartes is of special value for the understanding of 
Kant because, with a striking resemblance in his intel- 
lectual aptitude in general, he has little capability and 
still less inclination to busy himself with the nice analysis 
of abstract comprehensions ; that is why with him 
everything remains so concretely visible. That he insisted 
upon the critique of the human intellect ELS an indis- 
pensable foundation for all science is proved by a 
quotation at the very outset of this lecture ; moreover 
the expression " pure reason " occurs often in his works ; 57 
yet whatever there is of pure metaphysics in his philos- 
ophy is rather symbolical than critical. Masterfully and 
forcibly he simplifies, and then he places his rough-hewn 
blocks as landmarks to show that he too has travelled 
through this domain, and then hurries on further to 
those scientific investigations which take complete hold 
of him. Still these somewhat rough^hewn symbols of 



276 DESCARTES 

metaphysical knowledge have exercised an incomparable 
power upon later thought, as for example the distinction 
of every substance into thought and expansion. Like an 
Alexander among philosophers he thus cut a Gordian 
Knot which all the desperate attempts of the spiritualists 
and materialists have never been able to join together 
again. 

" Reason/' says Kant, " proves its loftiest duties when 
it distinguishes between the world of the senses and the 
world of the understanding." Its loftiest duties ! So 
great weight does he attach to this first and elementary 
direction of critical reflection ! The senses and the 
understanding are in his view " the two extreme ends " 
of human knowledge. The shortest formula is as follows : 
" the business of the senses is to perceive, that of the 
understanding to think/* More closely thought out, and 
more accurately analysed, it runs thus : our knowledge 
springs from two intellectual sources, of which the first 
is the reception of notions (receptivity of impressions), 
the second the power of appreciating a thing through the 
agency of the notion so received (spontaneity of concep- 
tions) ; the first gives us the object : by the second the 
object is conceived in relation to the notion (as a mere 
diagnosis of the mind), and all this is rather an accessory, 
a preamble, a preparation, an exercise of the under- 
standing in the intellectual nursery ; the true depth of 
the Kantian method of perception is first attained when 
the philosopher reaches the certainty that the one " end " 
of knowledge (the senses) is incapable of the smallest 
result without the other " end " (the understanding). 
Unless the senses afford notions no thought can arise ; 
and unless thought furnishes its directing power, no 
perception of an object can take place. Experience, 
and in that word we express all that we are, is therefore 
always '* a product." If experience is always a product, 
then it would be simpler not to think * of it as arising 



DESCARTES 277 

and combined out of two different and separate origins, 
but rather as an original unity, which is only split 
into two component parts by analysis. Yet this 
objection is in reality very superficial, and all that it 
effects is the reopening of the door to insipid empiricism, 
according to which the understanding arises out of the 
senses, and to objectless mysticism, which makes the 
world of perception arise out of the reason or the will ; 
against which Kant at once admits that " the two stems 
arise perhaps out of a common, but to us unknown, root/' 
while he declines to waste his strength upon this unknown 
and unknowable thing (unknowable inasmuch as it lies 
outside experience), 58 but at once declares that we 
possess no organ or power by which we can ever go beyond 
experience, and that in all experience the two stems 
are there, always capable of being proved to be distinct, 
and always postulated as united. 69 

Kant is the only philosopher of experience I wish to 
lay earnest stress upon that he is the only strict philos- 
opher of experience known to the history of human 
thought. That makes his greatness, and it is that which 
makes him so unapproachable to most people. To 
philosophise with Schopenhauer is a delight, not to say a 
luxury ; Kant, on the contrary, warns us with inexorable 
eariiestness, " That the understanding of which the first 
duty is to think, should instead of that fall into extra- 
vagance, is something not to be forgiven/' To philos- 
ophise with Biichner, Haeckel, and their like seems to 
comfort many brains that we may presume to be atavistic- 
ally retrograde ; but Kant finds only one predicate, 
impertinent, adequate to the affirmations of materialism 
and naturalism, and he exclaims with loathing, " Whoso 
has once tasted Criticism, is for ever disgusted with all 
dogmatic nonsense/' You must not be misled by that 
much-abused, word Idealism. In my further lectures I 
shall have to offer a few remarks upon Kant's nomen- 



278 DESCARTES 

clature ; here one word will suffice : when a critic of the 
Reine Vemunft described Kant's teaching as a " system 
of the higher idealism/' the sage at once answered wittily 
and with fine solemnity, " For goodness' sake not higher! 
High towers and the metaphysically great men who re- 
semble them, both surrounded by much wind, are not for 
me. My place is the fruitful depth of experience/' 60 

If you wish to know Kant's method of Seeing, if you 
wish to overlook no fundamental feature of his intellectual 
personality, then you must never lose sight of this famous 
saying, " my place is the fruitful depth of experience/ 1 
This limitation brings into play at the same time a second 
fundamental characteristic, that of unconditional truth- 
fulness. The very same truthfulness which finds such 
crabbedly lofty expression in his moral writings rules 
here in the philosophic critique of human reason- And 
even this removes Kant far away from us, makes him 
inaccessible to most of us. It is not the truth that we 
long for, but lies : and lies are on the watch for us every- 
where ; the lie invisible and unnoticed, like the bacteria 
and microbes, worms its way into our brain in the character 
of " suggestion," nests there and multiplies, until even if 
we were able to get rid of the intruder and its brood, we 
should still be unable to destroy its network without 
ruining our own power of thought. It needs not only 
extraordinary keenness of thought, but also extraordinary 
honesty of thought, and incorruptible love of truth, even 
a whole life of self-discipline, to fit oneself to the fact 
that our whole thought and being is surrounded by a 
brazen wall, and that we must resign ourselves to our 
fate, since we have neither wings to fly over the ramparts, 
nor the power of reaching the other side by burrowing 
under the earth. 

From this strict limitation to experience we arrive not 
dnly at Kant's peculiar method of perception, but also at 
the special difficulties which many of his perceptions 



DESCARTES 279 

present to our understanding. One word more in this or in 
that direction, the least little strain exercised upon our 
thought, what Kant calls experience, and all difficulty 
would disappear. But Kant never makes allowances. 
" My place is the fruitful depth of experience ! " I 
believe that I know that Kant may be called the greatest 
of all thinkers : yet I know with absolute certainty that 
he is the honestest of all men, and that this loftiness of 
character means the Sun under whose rays his mental 
work ripens. 

With all this you must be familiar if you wish to 
understand Kant's position in regard to the "twofold 
stem" of all human knowledge, and actually to know 
why he looked upon the world in this way and in no 
other. His iron law binds him to experience alone ; he 
will neither dig for that " common root/' always 
destined to remain hypothetical and perfectly incom- 
prehensible, since we can only understand that which 
belongs to experience, nor will he have aught to say to 
dreaming and Dogma. That is why he considers the 
twofold sense and understanding as double, and that is 
why the organism of the practical union -of the two 
inside all experience can only be disentangled by the 
most painfully exact observation and critique of the 
facts of experience in the mental life. Kant is not 
concerned with being easily understood ; what he is 
concerned with is spotless truth, above all with never 
overstepping the boundary of experience. Great is the 
reward ! Kant is right : the bathos of experience is 
fruitful. What we learn here is inexhaustible, and it is 
not only true but useful. Kant's philosophy distinguishes 
itself in toto from all other methods of philosophy in this, 
that it watches over itself practically step by step ; it is 
always directing itself towards two goals, natural science 
and moral doctrine. What can I know ? What am I to 
do ? Those are the two great questions which exercised 



28o DESCARTES 

the sage of Konigsberg. And what characterises him alone 
among all others is that in the answer to both questions 
he forbids any overstepping of the boundary of experience. 
Thence we see not only a Goethe but also a Johannes 
Miiller leaning upon Kant, and thence to-day not only 
our most important and freest professors of philosophy, 
but in the same way many of our leading investigators of 
Nature, go back to Kant. Few have been adequately 
schooled to grasp Kant purely and fully ; but merely to 
touch the banner-bearer of crabbed, and at the same time 
energetic and richly active truth, suffices to ennoble all 
thought. 

For to-day we must content ourselves with the stand- 
point of a Descartes who looked upon the last questions 
of philosophy rather from a psychological than from a 
purely metaphysical point of view. That the under- 
standing and the senses are two is a matter known to us 
clearly and in detail by practical examples from the 
history of the Sciences. By seeing Descartes at work, 
first in the domain of the physical sciences, where on the 
one side the aether and on the other the laws of motion 
served us as main examples, and secondly within the 
narrower field of mathematics, we became aware of a 
tolerably complicated relation, which might otherwise 
easily have remained unknown to us. We discovered 
that between those " two extreme ends of human know- 
ledge," as Kant called them, there lies a uniting middle 
land: outwards the boundaries of this buffer-country 
are rather indistinct, while, on the contrary, the dividing 
line which runs through the middle, and separates the 
two halves of our intellect from one another, remains 
clear and sharply defined, even to a hair's breadth. We 
are taught- that we must make our comprehensions 
evident to the senses, otherwise they remain empty : true : 
but what the understanding sees in making its compre- 
hensions evident .to the, senses, is not that other " extreme 



DESCARTES 



281 



end," not the unadulterated perception given by the 
senses, but only a schematism of the senses, schemes 
which at their best reach the divisional middle line. We 
have to submit our perceptions to comprehensions, other- 
wise they are blind : to be sure, however, these concep- 
tions must for this purpose be very essentially materialised, 
and the result is not pure thoughts, but a symbolism. It 
is then certainly no simple occurrence when we make our 
conceptions perceptible to the senses, and bring our 
perceptions under the category of conceptions. 

The Middle Domain 




Here is our ultra-schematic diagram, ready to render us 
further service. If we were to direct our eyes simply 
towards the general division into understanding and 
perception by the senses, we should not reach far beyond 
Aristotle, who also in close connection .with Plato dis- 
tinguished the nature of thought (vorrnKov) from the 
nature of perception by the senses (aurOyriKov), and who 
consequently was like Kant and Descartes, antimaterialist 
and antispiritualist. The matter first gains a living 
interest, as well psychologically as metaphysically, through 
the discovery of the intermediary domain, and of the 
complicated phenomena whicfe take place there, " Never 



28a DESCARTES 

is a comprehension directly in relation to an object, but 
only to some different idea of that object." That was the 
one great discovery. It is amplified by the next : even 
if all perception of the senses brings to us something 
manifold, " we receive in the first place no objects of 
empirical knowledge, and therefore no experience " ; the 
rather does experience first come into being by the co- 
operation of a function of the understanding, since it is 
comprehensible imagination which brings into combina- 
tion, "the many-sidedness of perception" with that 
unity which is indispensable to all experience. There 
you have Scheme and Symbol. And I am convinced 
that you now accurately understand the whole matter at 
issue, since you have seen by Descartes' great thoughts of 
Inertia on the one side and the ^Ether on the other, what 
a Scheme is and what a Symbol is, how each arises, 
what it means, and what are its limits. 

I should like to remind you once more of Goethe's 
precious saying, " all thinking is useless . for thought." 
True thoughts always come as it were of themselves, their 
birthplace lies just in that middle land where perception 
and conception join hands. And it is the same in the 
case of the understanding of the thoughts of another, 
where the chief matter of importance is far more the 
subjection, than any exertion, of the intellect. Kant 
himself warns us that " Insight cannot be forced and 
hurried by exertion." The man who wrinkles his fore- 
head and draws his eyebrows together, will never make 
any progress. The expression of the true desire to under- 
stand is the widely open eye which shows how inwardly 
as well the mind greedily sucks up every ray of light in 
the one endeavour to See. If you have yourself already 
seen what the other man saw and how he saw it, then 
his thoughts will automatically reach you. Hence, now 
that we are about to take a very decisive step, I repeat 
the petition which I have already made to you, to think 



DESCARTES 283 

as little as possible, and see as much as possible. " In 
order to be comprehensible one must talk for the eye," 
says Herder in his Reisejournal. 

You remember the first steps which we had to take in 
order to arrive at a comprehension of the boundary-land 
between the senses and the understanding. Here again 
Descartes helped us : we only needed to see him at work 
in the province of pure mathematics. Without the 
assistance of mathematics we should never have arrived 
at complete distinctness. But since without perception 
there can be no thought, and since almost all perceptions 
are of empirical origin, that is to say, arise through 
impressions from without taken up by our senses, so in 
the majority of cases the problem of experience is from 
the outset very complicated, as we saw in the case of 
metamorphosis. You have only to examine our Scheme 
in order to convince yourselves how difficult it must be 
to ascertain the precise mental topography, that is to 
say, the exact place of an idea, which is forced upon us, 
given by perception, thought by conceptions, but only 
thought when it is given, only given when it is thought. 
Such an idea has generally speaking no fixed place ; it 
is shifted to and fro ; the commutator of the middle land 
suddenly converts the one into the other, and e.g. what 
was in Goethe a pure intensive Symbol of the senses, in 
Darwin is converted into a perfectly artificial, abstract, 
logical Scheme. The advantage of mathematics was 
that we found there pure schematic thought and pure 
symbolical perception within our own mind and without 
any adulteration from outside. Hence the topography 
was perfectly fixed, and hence with mathematical 
precision, as we may well say, scheme and symbol 
corresponded to one another. The most important point 
which we gained from analytical geometry, was this, 
that the dualism of our intellect, expounded by Plato, 
Aristotle, and Descartes ,, but first accurately analysed by 



284 DESCARTES 

Kant, is no matter of theoretical acceptation, but a 
mathematically assured fact. All Monism is a lie, not of 
course a subjective lie, nor a lie for those who are, or 
think they are, capable of soaring above all experience, 
still an objective lie, a lie so soon as Monism is to have 
value inside of experience. A gradual transition from 
perception to conceptions, or vice versa, from conceptions 
to perception, an absorption of any sort, is something 
which never takes place. In empirical experience there 
is still room for doubt ; the invisibly complicated relations 
lead to many a deception : Mathematics, however, teach 
us something better. We certainly shall never deny that 




are two exactly corresponding expressions ; but no un- 
prejudiced man will be able to avoid feeling the arti- 
ficiality and arbitrariness, I might almost say the tyranny, 
of such a proposition. Logic is powerless against it, for 
such propositions are outside the pale of logic : perception 
loses its rights in face of it, for perception is suppressed. 
The proposition possesses no trace of a meaning beyond 
the connection which I, as man, assign to it. That I 
have the courage of such a proposition does not prove 
that it has any objective sense outside of my own intellect, 
but only that there is a subject which is capable of uniting 
into symmetrical relation the two dissimilar parts of its 
intellectual organism. And it is just this construction of 
relations, not drawn from experience, but by means of 
which, uniting the two parts of our mind, we first make 
experience possible, just as by the relations between 



DESCARTES 285 

mental calculation and perception we make the higher 
mathematics possible, it is just this that Kant describes 
by the dreaded, often used and seldom understood word 
" transcendental." 61 

Mathematical analysis has here served us as an example ; 
but I must ask you to make a careful distinction. It was 
the single man of genius who succeeded in setting up the 
equation R*=x 2 +y*, and in endowing it with meaning ; 
another man may introduce another equation with the 
same object. What is no achievement of ours, but is 
simply a fundamental law of the human intellect, is the 
fact that it is only the straight line that has the power to 
convert form into numbers and vice versa. Thus in our 
mathematical undertaking we were in reality bound to a 
transcendental principle, though we were hardly conscious 
of it. Now we must go a step further and enter upon the 
field where the arbitrary will of man has no voice, but 
where inexorable laws of our mind are the informing power 
the transcendental laws of our reason. 

In our schematic diagram we have left white the level 
spaces on either side of the hatching : these were sup- 
posed to represent pure sensibility and pure understand- 
ing. Now what Kant detects is as follows : the Symbol 
on the one side and the Scheme on the other, do not 
originate in the middle region, in transition and in com- 
bination, but all perception is at its very outset sym- 
bolical, and all thought is at its birth schematic. Although 
the commutation, although the switches which are to 
alter our direction may only exist in the middle domain, 
that is merely a matter of psychological insight : meta- 
physically, on the other hand, the knowledge that our 
reason is as a general proposition confined within Scheme 
and Symbol, is of fundamental importance. That is the 
transcendental fixed boundary of all that of which we 
are conscious as experience ; Experience is never a pure 
apperception of what is and takes place outside our 



286 DESCARTES 

human mind, but it is always a question of an experience 
which is schematised and symbolised. Almost all men, 
including our so-called empirical investigators of Nature, 
maintain that the human understanding possesses capa- 
bilities which are independent of scheme ; that is to say, 
that it is at any rate partially set free from the bondage 
of fixed methods of thought ; and they hold that human 
perception can equally see things as they are, and not as 
the tyranny of our one-eyed cyclopean form-sense of 
space transforms them for the benefit of mankind : but 
the man who maintains this doctrine is defending concep- 
tions which are far beyond all experience, and indeed 
beyond all possible experience : that man is a dogmatist. 
Kant refuses to take this aeronautic flight : he remains 
prosaically, heroically, and recusantly on the terra firma 
of facts, and says : all human perception happens through 
the intermediary of a fixed Symbol this Symbol of all 
pure perception is Space ; all human thought only moves 
within a perfectly fixed, limited, inevitable Scheme this 
Scheme of all pure thought is the table of the Primary 
Conceptions of pure understanding, also called " Cate- 
gories/' 62 The fact that the conceptions of the under- 
standing do not permit of being referred to any single 
conception (like Perception to Space), is one which, as 
you will see presently, is founded upon the essence of our 
intellectual mechanism ; but those conceptions do form 
a simple, strictly united scheme, acting on all sides as 
condition. We have, therefore, on the one side the one 
idea Space as an indispensable fundamental form of the 
senses, and on the other side the single group of the few 
pure conceptions of the understanding which make up 
an organic unity. 

I should like briefly to limit and more closely define 
a saying of which I made use just now in order to serve 
as a support to your ideas, but which might possibly 
lead to misunderstandings later. I said ; all perception 



DESCARTES 287 

is at its very outset symbolical, and all thought 
is at its birth schematic : I should like you to grasp 
that not strictly, but only as analogy. You have seen 
how Symbol and Scheme arose out of the reciprocal 
interpenetration of senses and understanding ; briefly, 
therefore, Symbol and Scheme are not original, but de- 
rived ; but what space is according to Kant's con- 
viction, that you can first and best imagine by the 
analogy of a Symbol, what is the table of the compre- 
hensions of pure understanding you can first and best 
imagine by the analogy with a Scheme and now that 
the above reservation has been made you can fearlessly 
facilitate your entrance into Kant's world of ideas by 
the following formula: in the last resort all different 
symbols may be referred to one symbol, all different 
schemes of thought may be referred to a many-branched 
but yet single and united scheme. And these are Space 
and the Table of the Primary Conceptions, 

This is a point which we may say we have reached 
with the help of the scope (etendue) and thought (pensee) 
of Descartes. But a mere lively perception is not enough ; 
it must also be correct. And in order that your view of 
the world may be the same as that of Kant I will cite two 
short passages. First as regards Space. " Space is 
nothing more than the mere form of all phenomena of the 
outward senses, that is to say, the subjective condition of 
the power of the senses, by which alone outer perception 
becomes possible. Now since the liability of the 
subject to be affected by circumstances necessarily 
precedes all perception of these objects, we can under- 
stand how the form of all phenomena can be given in the 
mind before all true perceptions, and how they, as a pure 
perception in which all objects must be fixed, are|able 
to contain principles of the relations of the objects to 
one another before all experience. 1 ' It is a little more 
difficult to find words for the pure primary conceptions 



288 DESCARTES 

of the understanding, words which, without a previous 
exegesis of the Kantian system, should be directly 
intelligible and yet express a great deal, perhaps the 
following might serve the purpose. " Just as space 
implies the condition of perception in a possible experi- 
ence, so are the Categories nothing more than the con- 
ditions of thought in a possible experience ; they are 
forms of thought which imply the power of uniting into 
one consciousness the Manifold which is given in percep- 
tion ; and since experience is knowledge by perceptions 
linked together, so the Categories are conditions of the 
possibility of experience/' 03 

If you have paid attention to my request not to cramp 
your thought in a narrow gangway, but rather to yield 
yourselves openly and without reserve to a new method 
of perception, you surely will have succeeded in following 
me so fax. Of the utmost importance are two notions 
which are easy to retain. Space is the necessary form, the 
Symbol, of aU phenomena : the uniting of that which is 
manifold in experience into a single consciousness takes 
place by the intermediary of an immovable Scheme of 
thought. The little which remains to be said will offer 
no difficulties if only you never for a moment turn away 
from the principle of the perceptible incorporation of 
thought. 

As you will have gathered f rbm his words, Kant believes 
in a condition of the power of the senses and in a condition 
of thought : it is the interplay between these two condi- 
tions that gives birth to " experience/' And we may be 
sure that this conviction of Kant's does not rest upon 
.logical system-mongering, but, quite on the contrary, on 
precise analytical observation of the functions of the mind; 
his method is, as he says himself, " imitated from that of 
the investigator of nature/' It is here important in the 
first place to remark that, even if all the power of the 
senses is subjected to one condition extension in space 



DESCARTES 



289 



it is still the one thing which brings about the manifold 
in nature, whereas, on the other hand, it is the prime 
function of the many-branched understanding to bind 
this multiplicity into unity. Beyond the power of the 
senses, it is impossible not to premise this lies the 
objective world, a real chaos of multiplicity : on the 
hither side of the understanding lies nothing ! nothing 
but a unity, that unity which Kant calls Reason, and 
which is familiar to us as the true ego. According to 
Kant, moreover, there is, as you see, a progressive sim- 
plification and unification. Here again a schematic 
diagram will render us pre- 
liminary services. Think of 
the limitless objective world 
outside a circle. 

It is from that world that 
the senses take their impres- 
sions, and that too under the 
strictly simplified law that 
they force it by the compul- 
sion of a single form, that of 
extension in space, to what, 
if I might so call it, is a 
" simple multiplicity." Then the understanding reduces 
this multiplicity to a few primary conceptions standing 
in relation to one another, and these primary conceptions 
coalesce in a consciousness of their unity which might be 
called Reason, In this way the circles are packed the 
one within the other. 

Here there are two things deserving of special atten- 
tion : first the peculiar intermediary position and 
function of the understanding, and next the special 
relation of the inmost circle (Reason) to the outermost 
circle, that is to the surrounding world. 

Further in the way of simplification perception cannot 
go, inasmuch as it brings all the impressions under the 
i.~ u 






I Reason I 



2QO DESCARTES 

one form of extension ; on the other hand, the under- 
standing, if it were to proceed in the same fashion, would 
bring up no further simplification, but only a reflected 
image. For simply thinking as a merely formal concep- 
tion, while it no doubt leads to the idea of oneness, can 
yet embrace all multiplicity : for example, to the mathe- 
matician the number i means the " infinitely great/' and 
the single " type " of the zoologist can embrace a bound- 
less wealth of forms. The conception " unity " gains a 
living meaning only when used to distinguish the idea 
of organic combination as opposed to mere formal fusion ; 
as soon as the one conditions the other, by which in its 
turn it is conditioned, the two together form a true 
unity. True organic unity can never arise out of singu- 
larity, but only out of plurality. That is why the essence 
of thought is systematic organisation, dissection, con- 
junction. You cannot think without passing judgment, 
and you cannot pass the simplest judgment, for instance 
"the room is big" unless you are in possession of 
three several conceptions, the subject, the predicate, the 
copula. Each of these three is derived from a special 
primary conception, substantial, existentia, multifilicitas. 
The leading simplification, carried out by the senses, is 
violent and coarse like the first preparation of some 
material, like the dressing of yarn ; it is only later that 
the threads are woven into an organic unity. There 
must, therefore, be numerous primary conceptions, 
otherwise it would be impossible to introduce order, 
connection, unity (and that means sense) into the mass 
of impressions which are afforded by perception. Kant 
writes, " Combination does not exist in the things, and 
cannot be in any way borrowed from them, and so, in the 
first instance, be taken up through perception into the 
understanding, but is a function of the understanding 
which is of itself no more than the power to combine and 
to bring into unity that which our senses give us as 



DESCARTES 291 

mafnifold." That is a memorable saying. Our under- 
standing is a power to combine and to reduce that which 
is manifold into unity. 64 It will be understood moreover, 
I hope, that the multiplicity of conceptions in the face 
oithe unity of the form of perception means a progressive 
unification, and that without this " wholesale conjunc- 
tion " there would be no such thing as knowledge, 
nothing but chaos, or as Kant puts it, a " rhapsody of 
perceptions." (R.V. 495-) 

The second condition which here deserves your atten- 
tion is the intimate connection between the innermost 
circle and the outermost. The ego and the world stand 
in reciprocal interchange : each is necessary to the other : 
neither can be grasped, seen and dissected except so far 
as it is reflected in the other. The powers of the senses 
and understanding hover between two Unknowns : the 
one immeasurably great, the other without any magni- 
tude, without space ; the one imaginably rich in an 
inexhaustible multitude of forms, the other completely 
devoid of form, and for that very reason unthinkable. 
If we consider the relation from the standpoint of per- 
ceptibility, then we must say with Kant, " the world is 
the sum total of all phenomena" (R.V. 391), the ego, on 
the contrary, " the poorest of all ideas " (R.V. 408, 404), 
indeed " an idea empty of all contents/' Still, if we 
pursue the matter conceptively we discover that the 
" world " is really only an idea, an image in the focus 
imaginarius such as we made acquaintance with in the 
first lecture, an image projected out of the ego into the 
Inscrutable. 65 And so the two stand over against one 
another as correlatives : without the world no ego, with- 
out the ego no world. 

It is, of course, impossible for me to engage in a more 
searching discussion of, this subject : but it will be worth 
your while to follow up the lead which I have given. 
Later on you will find in JECant the, most fascinatingly 



292 DESCARTES 

deep amplifications of the matter. My object for the 
moment has been above all to show accurately the twofold 
boundary of experience, because that is so essential to 
Kant's method of Seeing. I spoke a while ago of a wall, 
and said that Kant's principle was to confine himself 
within this boundary of experience. But there are 
indeed two walls. One wall inwards, and a second wall 
outwards, and it is the intervening space to which Kant 
confines himself as the only space of experience. And 
here again is something of which you must possess an 
exact and comprehensible idea, otherwise the next thing 
will be that you will once more fall -into the clutches of 
the all-wise dogmatists, and will lose the moral ,and 
intellectual greatness as well as the scientific certainty of 
Kant's renunciation. It is manifest how empty is the 
purpose to try and solve the great riddles of existence, out 
of a nature which is of our own creation, of which the 
necessary laws are the laws of our own understanding : 
but Kant will tell you that the opposite proceeding is 
exactly as deceptive. There is no ego of experience which 
might serve as a foundation, upon which to raise a 
dogmatic erection either of the comprehension with 
Fichte and Hegel, or of the senses with Schopenhauer ; 
the ego lies beyond, or, if you prefer it, on the hither side 
of, experience. You will see more clearly from the juxta- 
position of the two following short formulae than from 
long arguments, the yawning gulf that separates the 
schools of philosophy ; Schopenhauer teaches us that 

The world is MY idea. 
Kant says 

MY WORLD is idea. 

The difference is immense. For the one is a monstrous, 
indeed, if you look closely into it, a mad Dogma which 
presupposes Nature and the ego as peculiar existences, 
and then sets up categorical conclusions as to the relation 



DESCARTES 293 

between them : the other is the simple affirmation of the 
result of critical reflection within the boundaries of 
experience, a reflection which teaches that whether 
inwardly or outwardly we are concerned with nothing 
except Symbols and Schemes, so that we can make no 
pronouncement about a ' ' world " beyond the fact that we 
human beings are compelled to imagine one. Besides this 
there results from Kant's doctrine the significant inver- 
sion, I am an idea of the world, a fact upon which Kant 
never wearies to descant, since this is really what is 
contained in the otherwise empty ego. Whereas from 
Schopenhauer's fundamental doctrine there is no result 
beyond the necessity of inventing a second dogma in 
addition to the first, which is what happens with the 
dictum " I am Will/' 66 

But now and in conclusion there still remains a question 
for us to examine, which equally moves entirely within 
the frame of Descartes' philosophy and of the material 
for ideas which we have gained in the course of this 
lecture. With this object let us return to the region of 
experience and to our old Scheme, which I shall furnish 
with new terms, for now we shall look upon the matter 
" objectively " instead of " subjectively." Understanding 
and the power of the senses have been considered as 
functions of the human mind ; instead of that we will 
now take into consideration that which corresponds with 
those functions, so to speak, as object. Where before we 
wrote " the senses," we now write " space " ; where we 
wrote " understanding " we will now write " the primary 
conceptions of the understanding." But what are we to 
write in the hatched middle space ? We learnt from the 
history of sciences, and specially from analytical geometry, 
that no transition takes place from the one side of the 
middle line of separation to the other except violently, 
suddenly, and through transcendental encroachment. That 
will .clearly be the case here, for if in mathematics we were 



294 DESCARTES 

dealing with quite pure, that is to say, quite human, ideas 
and conceptions, we have now risen a step higher : we have 
here space as the primitive form of all possible perception, 
and the pure conceptions of the understanding, or cate- 
gories, as the all-embracing primitive forms of all thought. 
What is to take the part here which mathematics played 
in empiricism ? Where shall we find a transcendental 
commutator, a transcendental straight line ? 

Before answering the question I must call attention to 
another trifling matter, because it will help towards the 
clear setting out of the problem. Everybody without 
exception finds it much easier to understand Kant's 
doctrine of space than his doctrine of the pure primitive 
conceptions of the understanding. Of the readers of the 
Reine Vemunft, perhaps ninety per cent do not get 
beyond the first part, which treats of the form of percep- 
tion (space). And that does not happen, as one might 
imagine, because it is easier to understand that which is 
perceptible than that which is abstract. On the contrary, 
it arises from the fact that it is easier for a man to follow 
a logical demonstration than to accustom himself to a 
new and strange method of perception. It is from out of 
the understanding that space is contemplated, and there- 
fore it is, as our first Scheme shows us, a " perception of 
thought/' or if you please a symbolical thought. For 
that reason the argument can be presented in almost 
pure logical form with firstly, secondly, thirdly : nothing 
remains hazy. But the categories, on the contrary must, 
if we wish to understand them rightly, be approached 
from the side of the senses, that is to say, we must con- 
template them as Schemes, and yet see them. Pure 
conceptions of the understanding cannot be further 
analysed and explained in terms of logic, for they 
themselves are the simplest elements of thought: a 
subject which can only be grasped by perception, defies 
all definition. You may define space, but you cannot 



DESCARTES 295 

define the single pure primary conceptions of the under- 
standing, at any rate not logically. The name " space " 
expresses something fixed ; whereas all names for primary 
conceptions are mere helps in need, only, as it stands in 
the Dissertation, cognitio symbolica. (ID. 10.) The name 
substance (or stability), for instance, is nothing but hocus- 
pocus until you learn to understand that we are here face 
to face with " perceptible thought/' a pre-logical thought, 
a thought lying on that middle territory where conceptions 
are first born of the union with the senses. The same 
observation applies to causality, reality, etc. Here, 
standing as we do upon the two topmost rungs of the 
two ladders, I can only see the one when I take my place 
on the other. That is the one great, perhaps the greatest, 
difficulty against which Kant has to fight, and a chief 
cause of the much complained of " darkness " of his 
philosophy. If the primary conceptions of our liuman 
thought were abstract, self-reliant thoughts, we should 
in any case be able to talk about them ; but they are 
nothing outside their relation to the power of the senses : 
that at any rate is Kant's view, and that is the reason 
why nobody by mere thought and without joining with it 
active ideas, can grasp Kant's real meaning upon the 
subject of the primary conceptions. He says, " the cate- 
gories afford us no knowledge of things excepting by 
their possible application to empirical perception," and 
hence "we cannot really define any single category 
without having recourse to conditions of the senses, 
therefore to the form of phenomena to which they must 
consequently be confined as their only objects, because 
if this condition is removed all significance, that is to say, 
relation to the object, falls away, and it is then impossible 
for us by any example to make ourselves grasp what sort 
of thing is meant by such-like conceptions." (R.V. 147, 
300.) 
Here again I am forced to content myself with a mere 



296 DESCARTES 

suggestion : but you will very soon realise what is the 
purport of this reminder. 

Supposing then that the primary conceptions of our 
understanding existed without any relation to the senses, 
it would be impossible to see how the requisite " applica- 
tion to perception " could take place, and our knowledge 
could in no case be a " knowledge of things " : it would be 
at best a " cloud-cuckoo-town "* knowledge or, as Kant 
puts it, a too ambitious knowledge. It would be just the 
same as if we imagined a mathematical proposition, 
purely logical, incapable of being turned into anything 
perceptible, a calculation with an unknown x, y, z, in 
which everything would naturally fit in correctly without 
conveying the slightest meaning. And the same holds 
good, though of course in an inverted sense, in the case 
of space, as to which we have already seen in Newton, 
that thought cannot easily grasp it, and yet loves to 
busy itself with it. And you will understand me when I 
maintain : that that " transcendental straight line " of 
our research, which is to serve us as a commutator 
between the primary conceptions of thought and the 
primary form of perception, must not only, like mathe- 
matics, be at the same time perception and thought, but 
must turn its perceptive side to thought, and its thinking 
side to perception. 

These are conditions which Time alone can fulfil. 

Time is at once conception aad perception ; Kant 
introduces it sometimes as the one, sometimes as the 
other. He calls it " Inner perception," or " Form of 
inner perception/' but then again " Form of the inner 
sense/' 67 However you look at it, it always remains 
something " inner/' because like its empirical embodi- 
ment, mathematics, it fills the inner or middle domain. 
And yet it is in so far something " outer " as it serves to 
transport each of the two fundamental functions of our 

* See the " Birds " of Aristophanes. 



DESCARTES 297 

knowledge out of itself and into the other form* " The 
conception of change, and with it the conception of 
motion as change of place, is only intelligible through 
and in the idea of Time ; unless this idea were perception 



Time 




(inner perception) no conception, whatever it might be, 
would make the possibility of a change comprehensible/' 68 
It is only in Time therefore that a world can exist for us. 
That is one side of the question. On the other side it is 
precisely Time that gives us the idea of stability, and as 
such the form of the perception of ourselves and of our 
si^bjective condition. For, as Kant says, " Time can be 
no definition of outer phenomena : it belongs neither to 
form nor position, etc. ; on the other hand, it does define 
the relation of ideas in our subjective condition." ** 
Without Time, then, no Ego ! and not only no Ego, but 
generally no conception of substance, that is to say, no 
idea of any object which remains stable in the midst of all 
change. We have to thank Time for motion and stability, 
for development and being, for World and Ego, 



298 DESCARTES 

The analogy with mathematics must strike you at 
once : and you will perceive that in our new Scheme we 
have placed our indications on their proper sides ; for 
Time as stability manifestly corresponds with Geometry 
which is mathematical form, while Time as fluent motion 
is the foundation of the conception of numbers. 70 It is 
true that time as stability is not form, but it furnishes 
the commutator, the salient point at which the idea of 
stability arises through the transcendental union of 
understanding and the power of the senses, that is to say, 
of space and conception. In the same way the logically 
unthinkable conception of a change of place in space is 
impossible without a similar intermediary position of 
Time. 

Let me go more closely into what I have hinted at. 
For the function of Time must be made clear to you 
without any reservation, and it can be made so if you 
will only take Descartes' analytical geometry as your 
counsellor step by step. Descartes would have been 
unable to carry out the critique of the human intellect 
as Kant did, and yet in the practice of his method of 
thinking he has shown a manner of Seeing which is in 
complete harmony with that of Kant. The part played in 
Descartes* mathematics by the straight line, is played in 
Kant's analysis of the human intellect by Time. 71 As 
you will remember, the straight line is not form, inasmuch 
as it is the only visible thing which gives birth to no 
form ; and it is not a number, inasmuch as every straight 
line can represent every possible number, and therefore 
remains entirely indifferent to the conception of numbers : 
and in spite of that it alone furnishes a footing for the 
Conversion of form into numbers and vice versa. It is 
just the same with Time. It lies altogether outside of 
the true conceptions of the understanding ; it also lies 
outside of all perception. Time, as we said before, is at 
once conception and perception ; now we will speak with 



DESCARTES 299 

greater precision and say : Time is neither perception 
nor conception, but can never be far removed from either ; 
that is to say, without Time we can neither perceive nor 
conceive. That is why Kant calls Time " the constant 
correlation of all existence." (R,V. 226.) Space too is " no 
real object which can be outwardly perceived/' but is " the 
very form of phenomena " (R.V. 459), and indeed in the 
famous dispute as to whether it was possible or not that 
there should exist an empty space, in which Descartes 
with unerring genius took the part of the impossibility, 
Newton with the childish simplicity which was peculiar to 
him asserted the certainty of this monstrous idea, our 
abstract jingle of words is based upon a perception which 
is at least imagined. Time, on the other hand, offers no 
handle to perception, for where we conceive it as extension 
and quasi-visible, that happens by means of an allegory 
inasmuch as we draw a line in our thoughts and ana- 
logically use it to represent Time, which " outward 
figurative idea of Time " Kant has discussed in detail. 
(R.V. 154, seq.) Neither has thought any more power of 
comprehending Time; it always contrives to elude thought. 
St. Augustine with a sigh says, etconfiteortibi, Domine, adhuc 
ignorare me quid sit tempusJ 2 The old Greeks had already 
discovered that Time could only exist for the thinker who 
measures and counts its hours, and Descartes, who has 
no objection to predicate " lasting," that is " stability," 
of things, gives it as his opinion that le temps riest rien 
qu'une fagon de penser. And yet the measures of 
time deduced from various motions, such as those of 
heavenly bodies, for instance, do not correspond to the 
actual lived or living life of a man : for him a minute 
may contain years, years may glide by unobserved like a 
short autumn morning : he measures Time not by length, 
but by gradation, that is to say, by the sensations which 
it contains. Here there is no possibility of bridging over 
the gulf, our double nature asserts itself too abruptly. 



300 DESCARTES 

If ever you study Kant's Reine Vemunft you must not 
linger too long over the preliminary doctrine of the senses ; 
for here unfortunately Time is at first dealt with as if it 
belonged to space, and indeed to space alone, and that 
means, therefore, to the power of the senses. That has 
given birth to a misunderstanding widely spread and 
disseminated by Schopenhauer into the remotest strata 
of the imperfectly cultured, by which Space and Time are 
represented as two forms of perception of equal value 
and parallel to one another. To talk of the " ideality of 
Space and Time " has become a commonplace platitude ; 
and yet we have to deal with two completely different 
things : Space is the only form of all pure perception ; 
Time is an intermediary between perception and tinder- 
standing, which in itself and by itself can neither be 
perceived nor imagined. That is why I recommend you 
to hurry on further through Kant's work, till you reach 
the place where it will be shown to you how the con- 
junction between understanding and the power of the 
senses (i.e. between the primary conceptions and the 
idea of space), takes place. Here you will once again 
meet Time introduced as a twin-sister of space, but as 
precisely in the same relationship to understanding, and 
so " as an intermediary idea, on the one side a matter 
of the intellect, on the other of the senses " ; on the one 
side " similar to the category, on the other side similar 
to phenomenon in so far as Time is contained in every 
empirical idea of the Manifold." Then will Kant's 
perception for the first time really become clear to you. 
Time is an intermediary idea, on the one side belonging 
to the intellect, on the other to the senses : what that 
means you now ^understand thoroughly and in detail. 
You need only think of the analogously intermediate part 
which the straight line plays in mathematics ; and you 
will see clearly how important such an intermediary is 
for our whole intellectual life, if you remember from the 



DESCARTES 301 

history of our sciences which we touched upon at the 
beginning of the lecture, that nothing which has been 
observed can be thought without the intermediary of a 
Scheme, and no thought can gain any constructive value 
without the intermediary of a symbol : Time is the founda- 
tion of all these intermediary processes. And now if you 
look at the title of this chapter of the Reine Vernunft, 
you will discover with amazement that this chapter so 
impatiently awaited because it is the most indispensable 
of all, the one by which at last the goal is reached, this 
brilliant solution of riddles, the famous, dreaded chapter 
decried as impenetrably dark, of which I spoke at the 
beginning of this passage, is the chapter on "the 
schematisation of the pure conceptions of the under- 
standing." And I think you will ask with me, what 
sort of perception can there be in the brains of a pro- 
fessional, state-paid commentator on Kant, who singles 
out this chapter to condemn it as valueless ? 74 

That, however, is a matter of indifference. If Kant 
himself in the chapter in question asks, as he does 
literally, " How is it possible that pure conceptions of 
the understanding can be applied to phenomena ? " we 
cannot but think him fully justified. As he says, " It is 
clear that there must be a third." We too see that 
clearly. And when after proving that this "third" must 
be Time a demonstration of the all-conquering power of 
conviction he goes on to show that the combination of 
the " first " and the " second " which takes place inside 
this " third " is no fusion, but nothing more and nothing 
less than a " placing of the two together in relation to 
one another " by intermediation ; and when he calls 
this intermediation a Scheme, and consequently makes the 
relations of the primary conceptions of the understanding 
to the nature of our impressions of the senses, takfe place 
through the intermediary of a scl^ematisation of pure 
understanding; then all this is perfectly clear and 



302 DESCARTES 

natural and according to expectation ; we knew it 
already from empiricism and mathematics : what is new 
to us is at most the fact that this relation is fundamental 
in all human knowledge without exception, since it is 
that which gives birth to what may be called Experience. 
In my humble opinion there is only one thing lacking to 
make Kant perfectly clear : that is to say, a chapter upon 
" the symbolism of the pure power of the senses." Not 
that I should wish to obliterate Kant's distinction 
between spontaneity and receptivity, between function 
and inclination, between activity and passivity, 75 as 
characteristic in. the understanding and in the power of 
the senses, for mathematics and Time itself teach us, 
as Kant himself has done, that we not only comprehend 
our perceptions, but also perceive our thoughts, and that 
both these processes, not one alone, take place through 
the intermediary of that " third/' Because Kant at the 
beginning of his critique lays stress upon a one-sided 
view of the relation of Time to Space, the reader is taken 
by surprise when he finds it brought into an equally 
close relation to the comprehensions of the understanding, 
and described as " a third " ; and next the first one- 
sidedness is amplified by a second, since now he only lays 
stress upon the schematic intermediation of Time, there- 
fore, to use Kant's expression, upon the way in which the 
power of the senses realises understanding, not on the 
way in which the understanding realises the power of the 
senses, that is to say, the symbolising activity of Time. 76 
Yet there can be no doubt that we have correctly repre- 
sented Kant's perception : the whole Kritik der Reinen 
Vernunft and that of the Urteilskraft (power of 
judgment) bears witness to that ; Kant may have had 
good metaphysical reasons for his inconsistent exposition 
indeed, he certainly did have them, though they have 
not come under our observation here. We have only 
been dealing with his method of Seeing, aad of the many 



DESCARTES 303 

proofs which have been laid before you, I need only 
remind you of one, which furnished the clue to the whole 
examination of Descartes : " Thoughts without contents 
are empty, perceptions without conceptions are blind. 
Therefore it is just as necessary to make our compre- 
hensions obvious to the senses, i.e. to add to them- the 
object of perception, as to make our perception com- 
prehensible to ourselves, -i.e. to subject it to compre- 
hensions/* To bring one's perceptions under conceptions 
is called Schematising: to make conceptions obvious 
to the senses is called Symbolising. Neither can take 
place except by one and the same intermediation, that is 
to say, through a single element essentially unified, even 
though it should appear iridised in two colours, other- 
wise no unity would exist in the understanding that 
transcendental unity, which arises in consciousness by 
the combination of Scheme and Symbol. Time is that 
commutator. Precisely where the middle line separates, 
there the two-sided " commutation " takes place, the 
conversion of the one into the other. We saw it in 
mathematics, we saw it in the empirical sciences, we 
shall be aware of it in every single one of our thoughts, 
as soon as we have been attentive and have learnt to 
appreciate the indispensable intermediation of the Proteus 
Time. 

One thing must be fixedly borne in mind, that for 
Kant, Time, like mathematics, is a purely formal principle. 
For that reason and because its special function is com- 
bination, therefore it is present everywhere, in every 
thought and in every perception. In order to communi- 
cate my comprehensions to the senses, I need Time : in 
order to make my perceptions comprehensible, again I 
need Time. Two examples : the .Ether is little more 
than the vanishing thought of stability hardly felt by 
the senses : the observations on motion teach us that 
the same point may be in two places, which would have 



304 DESCARTES 

no sense for pure understanding, unless the drawing of a 
line of Time made it thinkable. Even so Time can 
nowhere, neither in thought nor in perception, be grasped 
otherwise than as something existing for itself. Thought 
and perception cannot exist apart from Time, yet Time 
is nothing apart from its relation to thought and percep- 
tion ; its essence is to be the fundamental relation of all 
relations, that through which relations as a general 
principle arise and have their being. Everywhere the 
strict analogy with mathematics ! and therefore for us 
the relatively easy mastery of an otherwise so difficult, 
so incomprehensible subject. 

If you wish briefly to sum up what twofold Time has 
achieved on behalf of our knowledge you may say: 
since Time as Stability is the means of subjecting the 
manifold power of the senses under the yoke of the 
conceptions of the understanding, it bestows upon that 
power Unity : inasmuch as Time as Motion combines the 
unity of the inner sense (i.e. the unity of Reason) with 
the power of the senses, here it bestows manifoldness. 77 
Two examples : Kant has shown how every one of our 
primary conceptions, magnitude, gradation, causality, 
reciprocal action, reality, necessity, etc., grasps the 
matter of perception by the intermediation of a Scheme 
of Time, and draws it together into unity ; 78 on the other 
hand, Kant has also shown that every affection of the 
senses can only be perceived as motion, from which he 
draws the definition, " The fundamental principle of a 
Something which is an object of the outer senses must be 
Motion/' and motion equally demands Time as a cor- 
relative, and can only by the intermediation of Time 
give manifoldness to thought. And now at last the knot 
is tied fast, since understanding assimilates motion, and 
produces perfect Scheme, while perception takes causality, 
reciprocal action, necessity, and other pure primary 
thoughts, and amalgamates them so completely with 



DESCARTES 305 

that which has been observed, that it almost fancies that 
it can see them with its eyes. 

We too must tie a famous knot to end this long and 
laborious lecture. You remember how as a condition 
for the understanding of Descartes' special talent we set 
up the formula that he knew how to make the invisible 
visible, and the visible invisible. How far this formula 
is applicable to Kant you now know too accurately for 
any further explanation to be necessary. The saying, 
put so simply and abruptly, has but little significance if 
it is used in connection with Kant's rich world of thought. 
Still, even so it can render certain services in this direction. 
That the invisible comprehension is powerless till the 
actual visible object has been offered to it by perception, 
and that, on the other hand, this same perception remains 
blind, unless comprehensions transfer this visibility into 
the invisibility of the world of thought this, combined 
with the doctrine that it is Time which schematically and 
1 symbolically cares for the hither and thither of the trans- 
formations : this it is which taken together makes up the 
essence of Kant's perception in regard to human know- 
ledge. Now the limitation to experience, forms, as you 
will remember, an indispensable part of this perception of 
Kant's. What we see are only appearances due to the two- 
fold conditions of Form of the Senses and Schematisation 
of the understanding : and if we add " the third," Time, 
the conditioned phenomena become threefold. As for the 
things themselves, and what may be their essence, we 
have neither the disposition nor the possibility to form 
an opinion, and it is just such a riddle that the individual 
remains to himself. Yet we cannot prevent two powerful 
ideas from growing out of this experience of ours, however 
strictly we may imprison them within their double 
rampart : the World and the Ego. We have already 
spoken of this, and I will only add that World and Ego 
are as it were the two ends of the knot that I have in 
i. x 



306 DESCARTES 

view : the Visible and the Invisible /car egoxw. The 
World, the visible end, is nothing else but that threefold 
conditioned phenomenon in its highest, all-embracing 
potentiality, the symbol of all symbols ; if I remove the 
Ego to which it appears, nothing remains, nothing, that 
is to say, that would have any possible meaning for us 
men ; for it is only the Ego that can bring forward the 
idea of the World. Yet the converse holds equally good. 
The Ego can be neither thought nor perceived unless it 
be mirrored by the World ; if I remove the World, the 
Ego, the Inner thing, fades away. What remains is an 
empty Scheme of all Schemes, that is to say, a Nothing. 
Here too there is an interchange, and we can tie a knot 
as we bend the Inner outwards, the Outer inwards. 
Nothing hinders us from conceiving the Ego as the in- 
visible World, the World as the visible Ego. That we axe 
accustomed to look upon the senses as outer, the under- 
standing as inner, is after all nothing more than a con- 
vention, than a superficial analogical deduction from the 
organs of sense and the brain in the bodies of the verte- 
brate animals. The diagram on p. 289 might just as 
well be reversed ; reason or the Ego the all-embracing 
circle, the World in the inmost circle. 

In this way do relations complicate themselves as 
soon as we cease to limit ourselves to the domain of 
experience. This limitation, however, is not always 
possible. We cannot simply go to the order of the day 
about Ego and World, about Soul and God. And so many 
an idle chatterer, and also many a noble man, and among 
the latter none bolder than Giordano Bruno, has soared 
aloft upon the wings of fictitious knowledge, in order to 
solve the riddle of the world and the riddle of his own 
being outside the boundaries of experience. In what a 
different spirit Kant set to work upon such questions, 
you will have suspected from our work to-day, and you 
will guess that he must also have reached different results : 



DESCARTES 307 

I hope that this will show itself f ully as a result of a com- 
parison with Bruno. In his case, as in that of Descartes, 
we have to deal with a specific thinker, and yet their 
attitude towards the material at issue is almost directly 
opposite : for whereas Descartes only exercises the 
critical function in the domain of knowledge as a discipline 
of limitation in order to be able to devote himself in safety 
and freedom to empirical observation, and to the hypo- 
thetical and theoretical significance of concrete Nature, 
Bruno lives only in the empyrean of abstraction and 
speculation, and accredits human reason and its logical 
inferences with all knowledge and all power. That is 
why he has to take up an essentially different relation to 
Kant. In order to promote the interests of our investiga- 
tion we gave precedence, whilst dealing with Descartes, to 
the similarity with Kant, leaving unnoticed the points in 
which they differed ; in Giordano Bruno we shall, on the 
contrary, gain our brightest illumination from the points 
of difference. And so we shall let our day of empiricism 
and the critique of experience be followed by a morrow 
of dialectics and dreams. 



BRUNO 

CRITICISM AND DOGMATISM 

WITH A1ST EXCURSUS ON THE HISTORY 
OF PHILOSOPHY 



Upon the boundary between time 
and eternity, between primeval re- 
presentation and single creatures, 
between the world of thought and 
the world of the senses, sharing* 
the essence of both, and, as it were, 
filling the gap between the ends 
which 6y apart set up upon the 
horizon of Nature stands Man. 

Giordano JSruno. 




KRUNO 
j?nwt MI ttltl 



BRUNO 

A he close of my last lecture I hinted at a day 
of dreams : this may well have seemed strange 
to you ; for Giordano Bruno, who was born in 
1548, five years after the publication of 
Copernicus' work upon the subject of the movements of 
the heavenly bodies, is the first great thinker who grasped 
and assimilated the new interpretation of the cosmic 
universe, the new idea of countless planets circling 
round innumerable star-suns, and that with such 
passionate enthusiasm that he makes it his starting-point 
for every series of thoughts in his many-sided under- 
takings. In a certain sense we might therefore not without 
justification affirm that he was the only man who was 
awakened in a world which was still dreaming the old 
Egyptian dream, more or less tricked out with Christian 
decorations, and vamped up by science the dream of 
Heaven above, the Earth in the middle, Hell below. 
And yet it was he who was the dreamer, while many a 
man who in opposition to him held fast to the belief in 
the immovability of the earth, was a mere prosaic realist. 1 
What we have to distinguish is this : who was it that 
made it his first business to look out upon the world of 
empiricism in the earnest endeavour clearly to grasp its 
concrete visible phenomena ? And who was it that made 
it his first duty to look into his own inner -self, and 
consult his reason as to the question of the essence of 
the wotld ? In the first case we may cite Descartes as the 
example, in the second Bruno. Both might be dreamers, 
the first perhaps more so than the second ; for dreams 

3" 



3 I2 BRUNO 

are fed by phantasy, and phantasy in its turn is fed by 
nature; the man whose mind is turned actively out- 
wards, will possess a rich inner store of ideas, and with 
them food for daring dreams : still, dreams of that kind 
depend upon reality, whereas the true dreamer in the 
usual popular acceptation of the word, busies himself 
less with reality itself than with his own thoughts about 
it, and looks upon these thoughts as the most real of 
realities. While a Descartes looks upon his own thought 
as he would upon any obvious phenomenon of nature, 
and pursues his anatomical studies of the brain in the 
hope of discovering special organs of memory, of judgment, 
ancj so forth, a Bruno is rather inclined to mistrust the 
evidence of the senses il senso non e principio di certezza 
and to presume that truth exists only in Reason and 
springs from the fire of dialectical argument. 2 This last 
mode of thought, the purely scholastic, is one which we 
have not yet come across in our lectures ; for neither 
Goethe, nor Leonardo, nor Descartes is concerned with 
it ; and I think we shall learn much that will be new to 
us about that which is distinctive in Kant's intellectual 
personality, if we compare it with this scholastic mode of 
seeing and thinking. For it is a certain fact that Kant 
was a specific thinker, a man who, like Bruno, devoted 
the greatest part and the best powers of his life to investi- 
gation by means of thought, and that so far he too might 
be called a schoolman, and so appears to belong to the 
same group as Bruno ; and yet in spite of that Bruno is 
further removed from Kant than Goethe, and Leonardo, 
and Descartes are. Here, therefore, we are compelled to 
have recourse to analysis, and in accordance with our 
principles this analysis must rest upon perception and 
not upon the abstract : we must always use our eyes in 
the matter : otherwise we cannot be sure whether we 
are thinking thoughts, or merely stringing words together. 
We must, however, carefully consider how we are to 



BRUNO 313 

go to work in order to arrive at a perceptible side in the 
scholastic mode of thought. Here we must less than 
ever be afraid of taking the long way round if it will but 
lead us to this desirable result. I think that what I have 
said about the dreamer, and the briefly sketched dis- 
tinction between the dreaming of a Descartes and the 
dreaming of a Bruno, are well fitted to guide us in the 
right way. 

As a matter of fact, in every philosophy involuntary 
dream-shadows play an important part : without them 
no philosophy can come to anything. These dream- 
shadows are certain general forms, peculiar from the 
very outset, springing out of the inborn nature of the 
intellect of every thinker ; and even though their possible 
individual combinations may be so inexhaustible both in 
numbers and variety that it would be ridiculous to 
believe that the one personality and its thoughts could 
in any way be satisfactorily characterised by being 
drawn up into a Scheme, still, by comprehensively and 
keenly observing the phenomena, we may be able to 
refer the possible primary forms of philosophies to a few 
heads, just as we are able perspicuously to comprise 
more than a million forms of animals in eight or nine 
clearly definable types. Indeed, I believe that some 
such investigation of the possible principal aims of all 
human philosophies, thought out according to the 
principles of natural science, with systematic classifica- 
tion, would be an indispensable complement for every 
history of philosophy : for while the essence of all 
history is the giving prominence to that which is con- 
ditioned by time, the stress laid upon that which is 
necessarily eternal constitutes the essence of true science, 

I should like, therefore, at the outset of this lecture, to 
introduce the analytical excursus which will give us a 
general view of abstract things. I promised you a day 
of dreams : many dreams will pass before you, and you 



314 BRUNO 

must not be impatient, if sometimes we seem to go far 
astray : I shall never for a moment lose sight of the goal. 
And if we reach so far that we are able clearly to distin- 
guish the various specifically different myths and dreams 
from one another, then the comparison between Kant 
and Bruno, which is no exposition of doctrines, but an 
exact comprehension of personal intellectual aptitudes, 
will be easy to effect quickly and surely ; and I hope 
that it will be of great service to us, since it teaches us 
to distinguish with perfect clearness and sharpness 
between Dogmatism and Criticism. You will henceforth 
see how Kant, and with his exception Plato alone, stand 
upon a different footing from all other philosophers. 
You will seem to be crossing over from one world into 
another, and that other world is nothing more than the 
world as Kant viewed it. 



In the dream of sleep there arises a medley of what 
the eyes have seen by day, and of the discoveries of 
our free thought : each of these two elements is insepar- 
ably joined to .the other : without the fusion of the two 
no dream could occur. What takes place here in the 
passive function of the brain of the sleeper, recurs at 
every step of intellectual potentiality. The whole life of 
thought is, as we showed in detail in the previous lecture, 
a product, that is to say, the result of at least two com- 
ponents : and here, as Aristotle taught us (see p. 101), we 
can always distinguish between an " activity " and a 
" passivity/' But nowhere does this manifest itself so 
clearly as in that extreme object of comparison with the 
dream of the sleeper, the fully conscious, creative philos- 
ophy of important intellects. What in the one we called 
dream, we may here call myth : dream and myth are 
intimately related, as you will have many opportunities 
of seeing more exactly in the course of to-day's lecture. 



BRUNO 315 

Aristotle rightly derives all philosophy from the invention 
of Myths, and pronounces it as his opinion that every 
Philo-Mythos must of necessity be a Philo-Sophos, that 
is, whoever views the world in the sense of the myth, will 
be able to think of the world in the sense of philosophy. 3 
To be sure, Aristotle regards that as nothing more than 
a first step, and he looks upon himself as having quite 
outgrown the myth stage, and as having reached the 
positive final truth ; and yet to-day we all smile at the 
simplicity of the great man whose views of nature swarm 
with demonstrable blunders, so that no natural science 
was possible until his fatal authority had been broken 
down. The man who soars high enough will perceive 
that Aristotle simply replaced one myth by another, just 
as later the Aristotelian myths were crushed by other 
new ones, since absolutely no philosophy, however 
empirical it may be, can dispense with myths, not only 
as helps and stopgaps here and there, but as a funda- 
mental element pervading the whole. We are not all 
possessed of Aristotle's keenness of intellect, and if we 
see philosophy growing out of the myth which is akin to 
the dream, we still all incline to the Aristotelian simplicity, 
and believe that the myth has at last been conquered by 
science, whereas, as a matter of fact, the investigation 
of Nature has only resulted in the multiplication of 
Myths. 

It is only the so-called " positive intellect " which can 
content itself with few fictions, and is proud of it : but 
what distinguishes the positivist is not that, as he 
imagines, he is living in pure "reality," but, on the 
contrary, that he contrives to get on with a minimum 
of " reality " ; he takes his stand upon the domain of 
indifference, in the inner middle space between empiricism 
and reason, perception and thought, dream and fiction, 
so that all impressions and intellectual impulses are 
reciprocally neutralised in him, and that all that which 



3i6 BRUNO 

has been so bountifully bestowed upon us men emerges as 
summa summarum, Zero. Apart from this pseudo- 
vegetative filling of maw and purse, called positivism, 
men are all dependent upon myths, as much to-day as 
they were thousands of years ago. And this because 
doubleness, twofoldness, is a fundamental phenomenon 
of the human being, and because we have no other means 
of bridging over the gulf between perception and under- 
standing, between nature and the Ego, than by myths 
more or less consciously invented or dreamt. I set that out 
now without further explanation, because you have already 
seen in the previous lecture that we are always forced to 
schematise our perceptions and to symbolise our thoughts, 
without which we should have neither perceptions nor 
thoughts. Our whole thought-life is based upon a violent 
and, so to speak, artificial activity. In the meantime it 
is enough that I should have called your attention to the 
gulf which is present everywhere, and to its bridging over 
by the Dream-ideas of man. This bridging over, when it 
exists in the largest, most comprehensive sense, with a 
view to the creation of a unified world-picture, is a myth. 
The myth, this conscious waking dream, like the dream 
of the sleeper, has always a double root. On the one 
hand it grows from contemplation of nature, while on 
the other hand it springs from man's reflections upon 
his own Ego, The myth is therefore not only a picture 
but also a thought ; it contains an element of the senses 
as well as an element which is not of the senses. How 
right Aristotle is with his equation Philomythos-Philo- 
sophos, how demonstrably true it is that philosophy 
develops itself out of mythology, we shall see with perfect 
clearness when we go back to the old Aryan Indians. 
The great vault of heaven, the sun in its daily course, 
the blush of the dawn, the moon, the stars, the winds, 
the clouds, the lightning, the bounteous rain falling upon 
earth, the flame that rises heavenward from the homely 



BRUNO 317 

hearth, all, in short, that the eye sees in its simplest lines, 
is the foundation, the whole foundation of the rich 
myths which we meet in the Rig-Veda. But these faith- 
fully observed outer conditions of nature become thoughts 
and religion through the relation which they bear to 
man and which man bears to them. What the eyes 
perceive outwardly is conceived as a reflection of what 
is experienced within, and the inner experience seems 
in its turn to be a reflection of what takes place outwardly; 
and so eternally the pendulum swings to and fro. The 
unconsciously arrived at and utterly simple presumption 
is that the Cosmic and the Human are similar, that they 
reciprocally penetrate one another, that the macrocosmos 
might, without more ado, be indicated and understood 
by the microcosmos ; " nothing is within, nothing is 
without ; for what is within, that is without." Nature 
is identical with man, man identical with nature. Any 
thought of a distinction does not yet exist. Such was 
the prayer which the old Aryan herdsman addressed 
to the gods of the dawn, the knightly Ashwins, fore- 
runners of the Hellenic heavenly twins, in the days 
when he dwelt in the highlands and possessed nothing 
resembling an abstract philosophy: not only did he 
pray for help against the dangers of the night, but also 
for knowledge, for wisdom ; how would it be possible 
that the conqueror of the dangers of the night, the 
morning herald of the Sun, should not also be a con- 
queror of the night of ignorance, a giver of spiritual 
enlightenment. Not only does such a prayer say, 
" awaken the joy of courage in us/' a thing which the 
least imaginative of mankind might expect from the 
fresh breath of morning, but it says at the same time, 
" and bring us knowledge/' 4 In the same way to the 
Sun-god Savitar is addressed the prayer, not only that he 
may bestow upon mankind the light which is the object 
of his desire, but also that he may " give furtherance to 



3 i8 BRUNO 

thought." 5 When the Sun rises I become wise : I have 
but to open my eyes and to perceive everything ; I find 
myself illuminated in surrounding nature, and nature 
illuminated in me. As the Rig-Veda says, " In the heart 
Varuna created Will, in Heaven the Sun." Of the same 
nature are both. 

What is before us here is precisely the same as that 
which we to-day in our abstract and circumstantial 
train of thought call the " identity of thinking and being/' 
that which once more came to high honour through 
Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, but which also is the hidden 
foundation of Schopenhauer's doctrine, and amongst our 
contemporaries is not less conspicuous in such widely 
different intellects as Duhring and Wundt. What is 
with perfect simplicity set out by metaphysically gifted 
but primitive peoples, seeing that the very thought of 
the possibility of a distinction between world and man, 
between that which is seen and that which is thought, 
does not occur and could not be understood, is intro- 
duced afresh as doctrine by these philosophers. For 
instance, Giordano Bruno, who in this, as in most things, 
approaches nearly to Plotinus, teaches expressly that the 
ladder of the emotions of the mind (affetti) exactly corre- 
sponds to the ladder of nature, and so mirrors all the 
npdes of Being (mostra tutte le specie de lo ente).* 

; It is essential to our work to-day that in this identi- 
fication of that which is seen and that which is thought, 
and, if it be carried further, of Nature and Understanding, 
we should recognise the primeval Myth of all Myths ; 
it is an identification which, from the earliest times 
of which we have any knowledge, has possessed a great 
significance for the philosophy of the Indo-European 
race. As a matter of fact, there is here a yawning gulf, 
and it is not only a cleft between world and man 
considered as two separate entities and between per- 
ception and thought looked upon as two different 



BRUNO 319 

functions but it is also reflected in Seeing and Thinking, 
and is the cause of our neither being able purely to 
perceive the world, nor purely to think, nor to look upon 
our own special self fully as subject or fully as object. 
That is the fundamental fact of our whole intellectual 
life, a^ it has been once for all established by Immanuel 
Kant, ' But man, when he was still completely unsophisti- 
cated, was not conscious of this fact, and connected the 
sides of the gulf by a bridge, which was no less obvious 
and iridescent than the rainbow upon which the German 
gods entered the Valhalla, but which was equally devoid 
of objective capability and carrying power. It is over 
this same bridge that mankind still wanders to and fro, 
though some engage as their guide the giant Schopen- 
hauer, others the dwarf Biichner, while the greater 
number take any one of the numerous Dii minores. 
Looked at from a sufficient perspective distance, the 
difference between the unsophisticated creeds of an 
ancient Aryan contemplative herdsman, and the highly 
elaborated tenets of a Hegel, will resolve itself into a 
difference of degree; the critical solution is the only 
complete solution of the eternal riddle* 

Since then this primeval myth was a fiction, a violent 
assumption, it was impossible to rest content with it. 
As in sleep dream begets dreams, so was it necessary that 
from the one myth others should be born, otherwise the 
bridge in mid-air would vanish, and the precipice would 
yawn at our feet. So, in, the first place, we observe that 
the stem of the most primitive all-embracing myth forks 
into two main branches, just as inclination prefers to lay 
chief stress upon that which is thought, or upon that 
which is seen ; speaking from the point of view of looking 
upon man as epitome and conception of the world, or, 
on the contrary, upon the world as the unfolding and 
visible representation of man. In the last case, that is 
to say, where precedence had been given to the Seen 



320 BRUNO 

over the Thought, in course of time men reached an arti- 
ficial philosophy, as happened in Greece, where the 
abstract thinkers everywhere held to that which is 
visible and capable of being represented, and always 
appeared in the character of creators or formers. Think 
of Democritus who invented the evidence of the atoms 
in the interests of an abstract cosmic mechanism, and 
Aristotle who brought the logical functions of our intellect 
into visible schemes. In the first case, that is to say, where 
men were inclined to lay stress upon thought alone, the 
result was that by degrees nature (apart from man) and 
the visible world, which had served as starting-point for 
the primeval myth, were lost to sight : their very exist- 
ence was as far as possible denied, and every perceptible 
thing was more and more degraded in the thoughts of 
men, as in India when the Brahmans were at their 
zenith, where at last thought alone, pure and bare of all 
ideas, remained, the Ego in its highest potentiality, the 
all-embracing, unindividual Self (Param&tman). 7 Greeks 
and Indians have in all probability a common ancestry, 
and yet how different are the goals which they attain ! 
You see how the direction of mythical thought and the 
direction of the development of culture go hand in hand. 
But we must still linger for a moment over this first 
branching into two essentially different directions of the 
primeval myth of the identity of thinking and seeing ; 
for we shall soon have to consider a variegated series of 
most highly complicated networks of thought, and these 
will only remain perceptible if we have from the beginning 
fixed our eyes clearly upon the mythical element. We 
are now acquainted with the great primitive myth, and 
we have just seen, how that same myth can give birth to 
two such different modes of contemplating the world, 
that nearly related peoples reach the opposite ends of 
the scale of thought. But it is easy for us to show the 
existence of these two chief branches in the souls of our 



BRUNO 321 

thinkers down to the present day, and so to learn to 
recognise the perceptibly mythical where we imagine 
abstraction to be at work in its utmost potentiality. 

If I have up to the present spoken of man and world as 
in opposition to one another, I have done so because that 
is the conception with which we are chiefly concerned 
to-day. But these conceptions are too complicated and 
too abstract for unsophisticated nations ; the first 
distinction, demonstrable even in the most primitive 
peoples, a proved ethnological fact is that which 
exists between those who are gifted with souls and those 
who are not so gifted. And since the idea of a soul is 
everywhere connected with that of breath, while breathing 
is the most important symptom of life, so the distinction 
between the man of soul and the man of no soul, is fused 
into that between a man who is alive and a man who is 
not alive. I, the man, the thinker, am gifted with soul 
and gifted with life ; the stone that lies in my hand, the 
thing seen, the piece of nature, is evidently soulless and 
lifeless. But, upon more penetrating reflection, out of 
the primitive myth which makes the comparison of man 
and nature the foundation of all philosophy two opposite 
conclusions arise ; for one school says, " I live and am 
gifted with soul, therefore everything lives and has a 
soul " ; whereas the others have come to this conclusion : 
the world around me is a piece of mechanism, without 
life and without soul, therefore the Ego is the same/ We 
will begin by making ourselves further acquainted with 
these two doctrines by examples ; that will lead us to 
the workshop where the philosophies are hammered out. 

The group of the older Hellenic thinkers, however 
much their opinions may differ, are usually included 
under the name of Hylozoists, men who considered that 
all matter, that is to say, the whole Cosmos, was gifted 
with life. The often quoted saying of Thales that every- 
thing is full of Gods, 8 finds an exactly corresponding 
i. y 



322 BRUNO 

formula some 2250 years later in Bruno when, in the 
Spaccio, he says : la natwa, come devi sapere, non & alfro 
che Dio nelle cose, " Nature, you must know, is nothing 
else than God in things/' Bruno, the dreamer, the man 
whose glance is altogether directed inwards and who 
therefore fancies that he discovers an " inner " every- 
where, Bruno cannot imagine that even stones can be 
without senses and souls (non e$t, crede, lapis sine animd 
et sine in suo genere sensu, I 2 , 158) . 9 And in the nineteenth 
century there lived an important, exact investigator of 
nature, Fechner, who pretended to have nothing to say 
to the phantasies of mythicism and mysticism, and who 
in spite of that looked upon the universe as a " Cos- 
morganisrn," and upon the constellations as half-way 
stations between their inhabitants and the " psycho- 
physical all-being " God. 10 You can see how the myth, 
" I live, therefore everything lives," may lead to the most 
widely different thought, from the pure scholastic to the 
pure natural-scientific. Yet investigators and thinkers 
of equal importance created, and have created from the 
beginning of time, out of this same instinctive comparison 
of thought and seeing, a perception in contrast to it, that 
is to say, perception itself : nothing is alive, nowhere in 
embodied nature are there any Gods. Such men direct 
their attention in the main to nature, and thence pay the 
more heed to the mechanism of occurrences ; as a matter 
of consequence, in their view the part played by the soul 
shrinks away more and more. We need only think of 
the view held of nature by our exact science of to-day, 
and of the oscillations of the aether as they were treated of 
in the Leonardo lecture ; that which is alive in light, 
that which in light, is of direct significance for the human 
soul, namely colour, entirely disappeared before our 
eyes ; colour became in the end a superfluous, very 
inaccurate name for a number; then came the most 
advanced of the physicists and said, "we do not want 



BRUNO 323 

your whole visible Cosmos ; an empty space with energy 
is enough for us " (see p. 130 seq.}. The man who was the 
absolute first to bring forward the idea of oscillations, 
Descartes, had the consistency to penetrate further 
inwards, and by the setting up of his famous theory of 
automata, to quash the idea of life not only in stones and 
constellations, but even of life in living beings. The 
body of animals, and a fortiori the form of plants, is, 
according to him, a machine: Je ne reconnais aucune 
difference entre Us machines que font les artisans et les 
divers corps que la nature seule compose ; all motions can 
be explained en mSme fa(on que le mouvement d'une 
montre est produit par la seule force de son ressort et la 
figure de ses roues (Les passions de V&me, XVI), and so 
Descartes reaches the firm conviction, that, with the 
single exception of mankind, all animals are automata, 
that is to say, unconscious, that they possess no in any 
way formed anima and no sensus ; in short, that they 
have no life. But Descartes goes further, or at any rate 
he is inclined to go f urther. In his Passions de Fdme, he 
confines even the soul of man to the action of the Will, 
and to those sensations which find a response in the will, 
and not long before his death he confessed to a specially 
insistent correspondent that he only referred the whole 
understanding of the senses (I'imaginer) and sensation 
(le sentir) to the living soul, in so far as they were bound 
up with the body ; pure thought thus remains alone as 
something living, belonging to the soul, & thought that 
neither imagines nor feels, 11 That is hardly more than 
an unthinkable phantom, a mere vindication of the sotdL 
It would be difficult to explain what this man, who f ought 
so hotly and "unceasingly for pure perception, had in his 
mind here ; difficult to explain at any rate as what it was, 
namely the mere reversal of the unsophisticated mytho- 
logical Hylozoism, unless India had once more furnished 
us with the full clue through the development of the same 



3^4 BRUNO 

idea pushed to its utmost possibilities, Being insisted 
upon as opposed to Thought, Nature as opposed to Man. 
A thinker named KapUa, who lived some 2500 years 
before Descartes, and may have been almost a contem- 
porary of Thales, taught as " a final, refined, infallible, 
absolute recognition " the sacramental words, I AM NOT. 
Not only is everything not full of Gods, not only axe 
neither stones nor beasts alive, no man himself is not 
alive, even I, who am thus thinking, am not alive. " With 
these words, I AM NOT," as an Indian commentator 
observes, " all that takes place inwardly, the distinctions 
of the organ of judgment, the delusions of the subjective 
organ, the consolidation of the inner sense, and the 
perceptions of the other senses, together with the outer 
functions of the body, are denied to the Ego/' 12 But if 
both that which takes place within and that which 
takes place without are denied to life, then of all 
that is apparent only the original matter, the "root 
primary-form," as Kapila calls it, remains, and my 
own body, together with the thoughts of the brain, 
and the feelings of the nerve-system, is a mechanical 
Automaton. Kapila was a freer man than Descartes, he 
did not live under the tyranny of Christian compulsory 
beliefs, and so he could dare to follow mechanical thought 
to its furthest possibilities, and said to himself : even 
that which chiefly distinguishes man, the power of 
coming to logical conclusions, to form judgments, is still 
bound up with a material organ, and this organ, the 
brain, is " since it belongs to matter, non-intellectual, 
and therefore that which it establishes (ie. the conclu- 
sions) becomes just as uninteUectual as a pot and other 
objects." Life becomes a mere hoax, since "the un- 
intellectual inner body is perceived as apparently intel- 
lectual, and in the same way the soul which has no share 
in activity is represented as active/' 18 This soul that has 
no share in activity is the pure Self free from all dross, 



BRUNO 325 

from which all that is implied by doing is excluded ; it is 
" unconditioned and absolutely isolated, that is separated 
from matter," and as soon as the " delusion of subjec- 
tivity," as Kapila calls it, has lost itself, " it looks upon 
matter immovable and contented." 14 That corresponds 
with tolerable accurary to Descartes' idea of the pure 
intellection (II, 257) of the moi (literally the Self of the 
Indian), qui est enticement distinct du corps , 15 of a soul 
(Descartes prefers the word Intellect), which is something 
else than the phantasy of the Senses (l f imagination 
purement corporelle, XI, 266). It may be a matter of 
surprise to you to meet with the expression soul or 
intellect here. Do not be too hasty in your judgment. 
I reminded you just now of the empty space of our 
physicists : here you have the exact counterpart, the 
empty soul, the empty Ego. That idea of the empty 
space with nothing in it but motion is no mere joke, 
no extravagance of thrashers-out-ofthought gone mad, 
but on the contrary a theoretical acceptation to which 
prosaic, positive, antimystic investigators of nature are 
driven ; just as little is this empty soul of Kapila and 
Descartes a purposeless image of thought ; follow to the 
end one of those two paths which branch out from it, 
and it becomes far rather the inevitable, necessary result 
of that first unconscious act of power, of the contrast be- 
tween man and nature, between thought and perception. 16 
These examples are enough to show you how deeply 
the simple primitive myth in all times, and even in the 
supposed newest results of human thought, reaches into 
the very inmost core of our philosophies. Whether the 
creation of form or the annihilation of form, whether the 
inclination to bestow a soul upon matter, or the inclina- 
tion to materialise that which belongs to the soul be 
predominant ; both tendencies may be referred to 
dreamy mythical presumptions, from which they of 
necessity proceed. But I think that we are now able to 



326 BRUNO 

observe in detail how far even series of thoughts, that 
are in appearance perfectly abstract, always go back to 
natural myths. We must in the first place take for our 
instruction a consistent concrete example, and it will be 
wise to confine ourselves to Greece, since Greek philosophy 
is universally known, and may be viewed in perspective 
from a sufficient distance : I must of course set to work 
with aphoristic brevity. But if once we obtain a clear 
idea of the development from Thales to Aristotle in 
main lines, we shall, I hope, be enabled to gain a complete 
perception of all those philosophies which are based upon 
myth, so that nothing will remain but the purely critical 
comprehension of the world-problem as opposed to every 
form of dogma, that comprehension which Plato 
guessed at, and Kant developed in full perspicuity. 

Thales, who looked upon the world as full of the deity, 
nevertheless did not make use of the Godhead like the 
Jews as a Deus ex machina for the creation of the world : 
the belief in Gods with whom he afterwards peopled 
nature was rather the creation of his own soul. But 
when once he began to look not into himself but into 
nature, he saw, like Homer, that everything must take 
place according to the immutable laws of mechanical 
necessity, and he held the opinion that the world must 
have developed itself out of some primitive element 
or primitive matter (orrotxuov), and that this primitive 
matter, the first cause of all visible things, was Water. 
Whence did he get this idea ? Aristotle saw its origin in 
the primeval Hellenic myth of Oceanus and his consort 
Tethys, the first creators of all things, and now we are in 
a position to point still further back, namely to the myth 
of creation of the Rig-Veda, according to which the earth, 
with its life and love, was in the same way developed out 
of the dark flood of the waters. Something of the same 
sort, but expressed in somewhat different words, is the 
doctrine of modern natural science. 



BRUNO 327 

There is then no actual conscious difference between 
man, God, and the World ; the identity of that which is 
-gifted with soul and that which is not so gifted, still 
seems a quite unsophisticated expression : everything 
possesses soul, everything is full of Gods, and at the same 
time everything is purely substantial and developed 
mechanically out of matter. 

Inasmuch as it already contains rather more logic and 
rather less perception, Philosophy becomes much more 
complicated in the first Hellenic thinker who markedly 
turns away from Thales. In theory Heraclitus is just as 
monistic and just as hylozoistic as Thales, but if we 
follow up the course of his thought we see that he takes 
Man as his centre, and distinguishes below him the 
World, above him the Divine. We may even say that 
Heraclitus is rather a thinker than an observer of nature, 
though that should not, as our manuals tell us, be con- 
sidered as progress ; it is simply a question of personal 
disposition. Heraclitus exactly grasps at the primeval 
mythical idea of Breath, of the Breath of life, which is 
common to all Indo-Europeans, as the fundamental 
principle of the universal All. The Indian word prdna 
has exactly the same meaning as the Greek synonym of 
Heraclitus Tiw/Aa, in the first place wind, air, then breath, 
and thence also life, and finally,looked upon as the invisible 
part of life, intellect or soul. Even the hagion pneuma, 
the Holy Ghost of Christian mythology, is the descendant 
in a straight line of the sacred Pr&na of the Vedas. You 
see how these two, Thales and Heraclitus, stand opposite 
to one another in the plainest mythical simplicity. The 
one looks out upon nature, and says, " there must be a 
fundamental element, water " ; the other looks inward 
into himself and says, "here there must be a funda- 
mental element, the breath of life/* That is much the 
same contrast as you saw before between Descartes and 
Bruno. 



328 BRUNO 

Now, however, we must go a step further, in the 
endeavour to investigate how Heraclitus out of this 
unity developed something double, that is to say, the 
world and that which is above the world. 

The fundamental element, the breath of man, the 
invisible principle of life, condenses itself according to 
him downwards into a visible world, upwards into the 
empyrean, purified into a conception of Divinity ; for 
both purposes Heraclitus again clings to mythical ideas. 
Fire he praises as the material bearer of the breath of 
life, and so far the Creator of the perceptible All, since 
for him the primitive being is called Trvevjma KOI irvp f 
Breath and Fire. That too is a primeval Aryan myth, 
taken from a hundred observations of nature, followed 
by a comparison of thinking and action : Fire in heaven 
as daylight and warmth, Fire in lightning, Fire on the 
hearth, and as consumer of the sacrifice, again the 
warmth of the body in life, in contradistinction to the 
cold of death ; the glow of the flowing blood, and the 
warm bowels of the newly killed sacrificial victim, is 
anything more wanted to prove that fire and life are one ? 
Small wonder that the old Indian books expressly teach 
the equal significance of these two pneuma kai pur, 
" That fire which is this world, is also the Prina, the 
breath of life/' 17 

And now for the idea of Heraclitus as to the Godhead. 
It is wonderfully exquisite. Heraclitus is, as you have 
seen, fundamentally a monist : the meaning of his 
pneuma kai pur is this, the essence of the invisible Ego 
(the breath of life) and the essence of the visible world 
(fire) is one and the same. This harmony between the 
invisible and the visible, between that which is thought 
and that which is perceived, is identical on one side with 
that which I feel as Destiny in the apparent accidents of 
my life, and on the other side with the inviolable divine 
necessity of that which has occurred, which I see in 



BRUNO 329 

nature : if I look out upon nature (fire), I call that 
universal harmony the order of the world (cosmos), if I 
think upon it in my Ego (in the breath of life), then I 
call it Logos, the Word that is from the beginning. 18 For 
the sentient philosopher these different names are 
Harmony, Fate, Necessity, Order of the World, Logos, 
all nothing but different designations for the one Divine 
principle : but if a man takes his Stand not upon the 
point of reflection, but of practical and political life, then 
he must honour this Divine principle under the idea of 
Zeus. That is why Heraclitus utters that deep simple, 
and for that reason only much-disputed, and in many 
ways misunderstood, saying, <c The one, the only one 
that knows, may not, and yet may well be invoked under 
the name Zeus." 10 

That is the way in which the best men of Greece 
thought about God some five hundred years before the 
birth of Christ ; it was a lofty and beautiful perception, 
hovering in harmony between nature as seen by the eyes 
and the invisible Ego, and full of incitements to thought. 
But then came the great split. In Greece up to that 
time the Ego and the world had been held without any 
more ado to be identical : not in any way as if men had 
dogmatised over this identity, but it was looked upon as 
an open fact, and not a matter brought in question. It 
was possible to insist with Thales on the visible element 
of Nature, or with Heraclitus upon breathing thought ; 
but that there was or might be a double possibility, that 
was a point xipon which there was as yet no mistake, 
Then came reflection, and so it was that Nature and the 
Ego separated- The desperate attempts of the Eleatists, 
who shrank before no sophistry, to enforce the mathe- 
matical unity of all existence as dogma, are chiefly interest- 
ing to us as a symptom of the rupture which had taken 
place and could never again, be satisfactorily adjusted. 
And just as the Ego and Nature had fallen asunder, so 



330 BRUNO 

too did now God and the World ; consequently new 
conceptions had to be hammered out, new philosophies 
to be built up. But, in spite of all, visible nature never 
lost her dream-awakening power over our phantasy, and 
the fundamental myths held their own, as you will soon 
see, with slight and merely superficial changes. But 
from now on attention becomes necessary in order to 
disentangle the mythical element as such out of the 
fray. 

As you doubtless know it was Anaxagoras who, with 
his idea of vov?, founded a new conception of the Divinity. 
Nous is generally translated, though in admittedly un- 
satisfactory fashion, by " thinking essence," or more 
shortly by " reason/' If I understand the explanations 
of the professed savants it corresponds more to the Latin 
mens, the English mind, translated by the French as 
intelligence. Really the exact translation is a matter 
of small importance : what you have to understand 
is this, that the nous signifies the exaltation of the Ego 
to the prejudice of Nature, and that means the exaltation 
of logical reflection at the expense of Seeing and Observa- 
tion. Just as logic orders the thoughts of men, so Reason 
orders the world ; "in the beginning everything was 
confusion (^uy/m), then came Nous and created the order 
of the world." You perceive that the primitive myth of 
chaos to a certain degree furnishes the foundation for 
this new belief of reason, but now rationalism assumes 
the autocracy, and it is not the forces of nature, but the 
powers of reason outside of nature, that bring the world 
into existence. That is why Anaxagoras is justified in 
calling his Nous avroKparri? an autocrat. It is really 
remarkable to see to what a distance this new God is 
at once removed. Thales had seen Gods everywhere, 
Heraclitus had felt the presence of the divinity at every 
step ; but now the Godhead, always invisible, fades away 
to the extreme boundary of the universe ; it is only the 



BRUNO 331 

" ordering power," the first " originator of movement," 
hardly more than a mere thought ; and indeed not a 
mystic thought symbolising nature like Vac-Logos, but 
an abstractly concrete thought : itself as yet only im- 
material unformed thought, not a form evident to the 
senses, but so far as the world is concerned a simply 
mechanical, not subjective, necessity. 

You will see directly what I mean. 

You remember that Descartes and Kapila by distin- 
guishing the soul entirely from matter had, so to speak, 
arrived at a purer, completely mechanical nature. The 
same thing occurs here, Anaxagoras, by creating a God 
above and outside the world, strips nature of its divinity, 
and considers it as more purely mechanical than his 
predecessors did : that is the salient point. For Anaxa- 
goras himself the invention of Nous had not much more 
significance than the cogito, ergo sum had for Descartes. 
But our professional philosophers to whom everything 
abstract seems to be something specially exalted have 
manufactured an Anaxagoras, to whom the true one 
bears- but slight relation : they sing praises like the 
priests of the temple in honour of the discoverer of " a 
higher purely spiritual conception of God/' and do not 
see that Anaxagoras simply had in view a rational natural 
science, and only makes use of the God of his thoughts, 
in order to be quit of the Gods of direct perception. For 
his eye is fixed upon the World, not upon God ; his mode 
of thought is entirely mechanical. He himself confesses 
simply that he only appeals to his God, when he is at a 
loss to know how to get on without him* In so far as he 
cannot imagine the rise of an orderly system without a 
Reason to create the order, he needs his God in the 
abstract : but he wastes no time over this rationalistic 
reflection, but hurries away to the visible world in which 
he now needs his God in the concrete, because he does not 
know how without him he can explain the cause and 



332 BRUNO 

maintenance of the first all-comprehensive rotary move- 
ment : in no other way does he make any use of his God 
Nous. 

Here then there exists a very important departure 
from the completely unsophisticated identification of 
Thinking and Seeing. But how closely, in spite of that, 
Thought and Seeing here hang together, has been shown 
by Wilhelm Dilthey in his Einleitung in die Geisteswis- 
senschaften. Anaxagoras, like Thales. before him, was a 
passionate watcher of the stars. When he was asked why 
man should prefer Being to Not-being he answered : on 
account of the starry heaven. But with him it was no 
mere question of sentimentality. It was rather that he 
possessed far more correct views of the cosmic relations 
than Aristotle. For example, he knew that the moon is 
great, and believed it to be inhabited : he knew that its 
light is light reflected from the sun, and he knew that the 
sun is more remote from the earth and greater than the 
moon. But above all there were two facts in the starry 
heaven which captivated his reflection : he saw, as his 
seafaring fellow-countrymen had done from immemorable 
times, the fixed star at the north pole of the firmament, 
and he then observed that the stars in its immediate 
neighbourhood revolved round it in very small circles, 
while the further stars moved in ever larger circles, and 
so he came to the idea that the whole heavenly globe 
moved round one axis. That was already an observation 
of fundamental importance. But besides this Anaxagoras 
possessed a sound physical instinct, such as perception 
alone can give, but thought never can. Gravitation was 
known to him, and inasmuch as he held the sun, the moon, 
the stars, not as Aristotle did later, as fixed to concentric 
spheres, but as independent bodies moving in space, he 
came to the conclusion that they must necessarily fall 
upon the Earth, 'unless the same centrifugal force which 
once drove the primeval elements asunder, swung them 



BRUNO 333 

continually in a circle, " as we swing a stone in a sling." 
You see what a mass of truly scientific mechanical per- 
ception of Nature is at work here. Listen again. Dilthey 
informs us that " the northern final point (of the axis of 
the heavens) is the cosmic point, from which out of the 
nous of Anaxagoras, the circular motion in matter 
started, and from which it still at the present time 
works. The nous began on a small scale ; the point 
where that took place was the pole ; from that point the 
circling became wider and wider, and will continue so 
widening, and it was thence that at the same time with 
the revolutions the division of the atoms took place." 
When we think of the state of knowledge of that time, 
we may well rank this idea as a scientific contribution to 
thought in a parallel line with the so-called Kant-Laplace 
hypothesis : the fundamental observations are few in 
number and not quite correct, but the prophetic concep- 
tion of the state of facts is striking. For our theme 
to-day the one point of interest lies in the fact that the 
God of Anaxagoras and the unity of that God is not a 
metaphysical deduction, as is the case with Bruno and 
all monists, but that this contemplator of the world 
comes to his conclusion inductively out of the necessity 
for a First Being who should set the cosmic machine in 
motion, and out of the observation of the one and only 
axis of the starry heaven. 

You see that the great cleft of which I spoke a while 
ago was as yet relatively not very deep. This divine 
reason, of which the ordering activity consists only in 
the maintenance of a common centrifugal motion, while 
all else occurs automatically, is hardly more than a 
hypostatised fundamental force of nature. And yet the 
step which had here been taken, was one of great import- 
ance. The divine had been isolated from the world, and 
had been contrasted with it as an intellect without body 
in contradistinction to bodies without intellect ; and that 



334 BRUNO 

introduced firstly the method of Analysis, that is to say, 
of dissection, and secondly paved the way for considering 
the human intellect as related to the Nous, so that a 
loftier wisdom might be created directly out of it than 
out of the faithful contemplation of nature. Analysis 
at once does away with myth ; for the latter is essentially 
combination, whereas the former is separation. The 
rationalistic importance assigned to logic, as if it were 
the fundamental law of nature, equally abolishes the 
myth, and replaces it by syllogisms. But inasmuch as 
without the myth to serve as bridge, without the assistance 
of some dream-form no unity and therefore no philosophy 
can be arrived at, the consequence was not that myths 
really disappeared, but that they were from that time 
forward introduced more clandestinely and violently. 
The old Indians, for instance, had expressly declared 
that their accounts of the creation were only to be taken 
figuratively, only as an attempt to represent sym- 
bolically that which is unknowable ; 20 these people then 
upon whom we think ourselves able to look down, knew 
precisely that their myths were myths, they did not 
demand for them that stupid belief which is required of 
us in religion and science. In the same way we find the 
Hellenic myths flowing steadily until the great break 
comes : from that time forth reason is dominant, believes 
itself to be of divine origin, sees nature at its feet, and 
deludes itself into the belief that it knows : that is why 
its assertions are dogma, and faith is demanded for its 
dreams. With the help of Socrates and Aristotle this 
connection of events will be made clear to us, and we 
shall see how in this way men became in a higher degree 
the slaves of their mythical ideas than their ancestors 
had been. What we call " Progress," a word with which 
childish unreflecting minds intoxicate themselves, is 
always dearly paid for. 
In the Phado there is a passage towards the end (96, seq.) 



BRUNO 335 

which gives me the impression of a really historical report 
of remarks which probably often fell from Socrates ; im- 
mediately upon that Plato steps in again with his doctrine 
of ideas ; but what Socrates objects to in the doctrine of 
Anaxagoras proceeds from Socrates himself. The latter 
tells us how in his youth he studied natural history 
zealously ; but that his hope thereby " to discover the 
causes of things/' and to learn " whether animals arose 
out of putrescence," how their growth took place, and so 
forth, was disappointed; that he discovered that he 
himself " had no aptitude for such investigations " ; 
but that afterwards he comforted himself by the discovery 
that " the real essence of things lay in our human thoughts 
about them/' and that men should guard themselves 
" against injuring their eyes " by the contemplation of 
things themselves ! al And so he laid hold upon the 
writings of Anaxagoras, because he had been informed 
that this philosopher had represented reason as the 
ordering law of all things, and this led him to hope, that 
in Anaxagoras he would find the solution of all the 
questions of nature. For if, for example, a man should 
wish to know whether the earth is round or flat, it " would 
not become him " to establish this by investigation of 
the facts, but he need only ask himself, which is the 
more reasonable ? which is the more advantageous for 
mankind ? This must of necessity be right, because it was 
reason (the Nous) that organised the world. In the same 
way the question as to whether the earth is stationary in the 
middle of the universe, or whether, as the Pythagoreans 
had already long taught, it moved in space round a centre, 
could only be answered by the weighing in reason of the 
pros and cons of the advantage to be gained, " Is it 
better that the earth should stand in the middle ? " 
That, according to Socrates, is the question to be asked. 
" If Anaxagoras made this clear to me I made up my 
jpind never again to listen to any other manner of proof/' 



336 BRUNO 

Socrates soon came to grievous disappointment. For 
Anaxagoras looked upon the nous (as against nature) as 
a mere first cause of motion : beyond that he was 
dominated by purely scientifically conceived physical 
laws. " And so I fell right down from my wonderful 
hopes/' Socrates complains, " when I saw that the man 
with his Reason establishes nothing, but brings forward 
all sorts of stories about air, and aether, and water, and 
similar wonderful things." That is the historical turning- 
point. Thus it was that mankind turned their backs 
upon nature, until in the thirteenth century the Teutonic 
renaissance burst into life. Socrates might well have 
deserved to be raised to the dignity of a Father of 
the Church. It is true that with the Epicurean Lucretius 
a reaction took place, which at least taught the love of 
nature, and the neo-Platonist monists worshipped it as 
the living Godhead ; but no one took the pains to consult 
nature, to observe it, to copy it in thought with love and 
obedience, and in that way to wrest its secrets from it. 

Then there appeared the man for whom Socrates had 
longed but had not found, the man who " made reason the 
beginning of all things," and who to every question gave 
the apodictic answer, " as it had to be," without first 
attempting to see what it was in reality. Aristotle 
demonstrated that the earth must be a sphere, not in 
any way because he attached any special value to the 
observations which were already to the fore in his time 
about the height of the sun in different latitudes, but 
because it was the most perfect of all forms and therefore 
the undoubted property of the earth, to which he added 
the further precious reason, tjiat the spherical form is 
peculiar to those bodies in which all movement is abso- 
lutely wanting. As forcibly he demonstrated that the 
earth was stationary and in the middle of the universe, and 
that there neither was nor could be any second constella- 
tion, but only luminary bodies attached to hollow spheres 



BRUNO 337 

which circled round the earth, and so forth. But you 
must know that a hundred years before Aristotle, 
Philolaus had taught that the earth turned upon its axis, 
and that it circled round some unknown centre, and that 
the better informed of Aristotle's contemporaries knew 
that this centre was the Sun, even though the mathe- 
matical proof of the heliocentric system was not given 
till some seventy years after his death by Aristarchus of 
Samos ; 22 it is not until you reflect upon this that you 
will realise what a fateful influence was exercised upon 
the culture of Europe by that supremacy of thought over 
seeing which was heralded by Anaxagoras, promoted by 
Socrates, and brought to perfection by Aristotle. From 
that time forth empirical proofs were of no account, 
absolutely none ; what Socrates had preached never 
again to listen to any other mode of proof than that 
which was logically rational, had become an iron law for 
the cultured world ; ratio locuta e$t, reason has spoken ; 
the age of the tyranny of intellect had begun, the 
domination of blind, sightless reason. What had taken 
place in the idea of the Cosmos, naturally happened also 
in the idea of the Divinity : it was fixed dogmatically : 
as Cicero in his historical retrospect of philosophy says : 
mentem volebant rerum esse judicem, solam censebant 
i&oneam cui crederetur ; "they asserted that mind 
should be the judge of all things, that mind alone was 
worthy of credence/' 83 The nous of Anaxagoras was 
now on a more exalted throne, and other authorities 
were regarded as its delegates. In every single particular, 
Aristotle defined to a hair's-breadth, what, and how, and 
where, and why the intellect existed : and so the nous, 
after it had assimilated itself to the Jewish Jehovah, 
became God to the European world,* laying down the 
law for all Christian theology down to the present time. 
Kant dethroned the Nous- Jehovah for ever, a fact which 
the world does not yet realise, but will learn by degrees. 



338 BRUNO 

What must specially interest us in the connection of 
these achievements is the circumstance that although 
Aristotle, in the consideration of God and the world, went 
to work in so abstract and rationalistic a fashion, he too 
drew upon the collected material of perception and upon 
a purely mythical comparison between thinking and 
seeing, for his fundamental ideas and for everything 
that possesses power of formation and living energy in 
his conceptions. That his nous is rooted in the nous of 
Anaxagoras he himself confesses, and that may be taken 
as an indirect connection with nature. Even Aristotle 
looks upon God as before all the " unmoved first cause of 
motion " ; he considers God as first and foremost the 
cause of the revolutions of the heaven of the fixed stars. 
But Aristotle as a keener analyst perceives something of 
which Anaxagoras, the more physical observer, had not 
thought ; that is to say, that it is difficult to bring this 
extramundane bodiless intellect into union with the 
world of matter ; certain intermediate steps are here 
necessary to bring into inner harmony the first and 
outermost motion. Thus Aristotle looks out upon the 
heavens, or rather he looks into the books of the astrono- 
mers, and sees that there is no unity in the move- 
ment of the constellations : between the fixed stars, the 
sun, the moon, and the planets move with all manner of 
shaftings forwards and backwards, standing still and so 
forth. Beside the comprehensive movement of the 
heaven of fixed stars, which alone Anaxagoras had taken 
in view, there are also other eternal motions which 
equally can only be ascribed to immovable intellects, even 
though they should be bred of the highest Nous ; obviously 
there must be as many of these intellects as there are 
different visible motions in the heavens, and these reach 
one another reciprocally from the highest and outermost 
to the lowest and innermost. But Aristotle allows the 
method of reason, with its inclination to structures in 



BRUNO 339 

harmony, to go still further. The world must be built up 
of just so many substances, no more and no less, as there 
are motions and intellectual causes of motion ; and we 
must be able to distinguish just as many aims as active 
in nature. 24 You see what an endlessly artistic, and, at 
the same time, artificial, structure is set up here under 
the mask of reason. The next matter was to decide how 
many of these motions, intellects, substances, and aims 
are there ? The answer to this question turned out to be 
more complicated than you might at first suspect. You 
might say to yourself, the Greeks recognised five planets, 
the sun and the moon, so we shall probably be right if 
we reckon upon seven motions, intellects, substances, 
and aims, adding to these the heaven of fixed stars as 
an eighth sphere. You would be far out. Sophistry is 
intolerant of simple solutions. The truthful perception 
of Anaxagoras and many of his contemporaries that 
every single fixed constellation is floating in space had 
been rejected at the outset by Aristotle as contrary to 
reason. There can only be one earth, and that must rest 
immovable in the centre of the All ; that is dogma, for 
that is demanded by reason, But out of this postulate of 
reason the necessity arose once more to bring to the front 
the old fable of Anaximander of the heavenly spheres 
and the luminary bodies attached to them. But since 
the wandering stars, sun, moon, and planets apparently 
carry out extraordinarily complicated motions between 
the fixed stars, and it was nevertheless a dogma that all 
the motions in heaven complete themselves in perfect 
circles, 26 you will understand that in order to explain 
the phenomena in this way, it was necessary to accept the 
idea of spheres rather than of stars. In order to explain 
the motions of each separate wandering star between the 
fixed stars, it became necessary to accept the idea of 
several spheres, contained within one another, set in 
motion in various directions. So the question was not, 



340 BRUNO 

how many different wandering stars do we see in motion ? 
but, how many invisible spheres must we assume, in 
order to explain the motions which we observe in the 
visible fixed stars ? It was necessary to assume at least 
four spheres for the relatively simple motions of the sun 
between the fixed stars, and correspondingly more for 
the other wandering stars, and so without reckoning the 
outermost all-embracing sphere of fixed stars, three-and- 
thirty spheres came to be assumed, "within which the 
stars really move/' Yet even that was not sufficient 
mathematically to explain the movements of the planets 
according to the dogmatically immutable presumptions. 
Two-and-twenty auxiliary spheres had to be assumed in 
addition, in order, as Aristotle puts it, " to pack up the 
other spheres/' 26 Think of the Plateforme roulante of 
the century exhibition at Paris, set up in a complete 
circle, and upon this regularly and symmetrically rotating 
platforms, a number of incandescent lamps securely 
nailed to it, that would be a representation of the 
heaven of fixed stars. Now imagine to yourselves seven 
wheels of different sizes, running round at different 
speeds upon this disc ; to every wheel a second wheel is 
attached in some special eccentric corner with a direction 
and speed of its own ; on this wheel is placed another, 
and so on, and it is not until the last is reached that the 
illuminating body, alone visible to you out of this whole 
mechanism of wheels, comes into play : but you stand 
in the middle and watch the movements of the many 
luminous bodies circling round you with unalterable 
regularity, and of the seven other lights which move 
irregularly : in this way you will have an approximate 
idea of the spheres as Aristotle conceived them, with the 
exception that he was dealing with hollow balls, not as in 
this simile simple discs. Aristotle imagines to himself 
55 of these balls partly boxed in one another, partly fixed 
to one another, and with different movements, and to 



BRUNO 341 

these he adds one outermost 56th ball. From this 
strictly logical deduction he concludes that there are just 
as many " intellectual powers " at work, that is to say, 
56, creating motion, an equal number of " substances " 
building up the world, an equal number oi " aims " 
whose decision settles all that happens. 

You will have remarked that even in this rationalistic 
cobweb of the brain which to-day seems to us so mad, 
the observation of Nature is nevertheless also co-operating 
and informing, and we evermore find Thinking and 
Seeing placed in direct relation to one another, in accord- 
ance with precisely the same presumption of identity 
between the two which we observed in the Indo-Aryan 
herdsmen. If the latter hungered after wisdom, they 
turned to the Sun : if Aristotle wishes to search out the 
numbers of the active " aims," he consults the stars. 
And it is precisely through Aristotle that one of the most 
primeval ideas of all Indo-European mythology, prettily 
tricked out with scientific frippery, once more comes to 
great honour : Varuna, in Greek ovpavo$ t that is to 
say, the " all-embracing," the true God of heaven, in 
whom as the Rig-Veda expresses it, " the heavens are 
locked/' literally as in Aristotle all the spheres are 
internally imprisoned in the outermost sphere of heaven. 
Not God alone is unconsciously borrowed from the myth, 
but also Substance, Matter, the idea which is set up in 
opposition to God. The Nous-God, the only completely 
purely intellectual Being, rests outside of the world, 
beyond the heaven of fixed stars. The primeval substance 
on the contrary (#A7 irpwrn}, that is the completely un- 
intellectual matter, has its lair in the inmost depths of 
the world. So now the two extreme points, God and the 
World, stand contrasted in full logical clearness ; between 
them are the 56 intermediary stages, the outer ones 
by increasing ratios more intellectual and less material, 
the inner ones by increasing ratios more material and less 



342 BRUNO 

intellectual. The Nous-God, the pure intellect, is without 
matter and immovable ; its being is only a thought, and 
it thinks no thought, for that would be transient, but 
" its thought is a thought of thought " ; but the TT/WT^ 
v\n is so entirely matter that it neither has nor p'roduces 
forms for these would at once be thoughts but only con- 
tains the inexhaustible power (Swapi?) of formation ; just 
as thought could not think thoughts but only the process 
of thinking, so this material cannot be things, but only 
that which is no thing : in imitation of the Aristotelian 
language we might say of the primeval substance : its 
being is a being of being. It is impossible to push utter 
senseless scholastic abstraction further. But just as that 
God, looked at more closely, appeared as the old Varuna 
of the myth common to Aryans, and even now current 
with children as the Heavenly Father, so we may easily 
carry back the TT/OWT^ v\y of Aristotle to the mythological 
ideas out of which this so-called purely logical compre- 
hension arose. Among the Aryan Indians this primeval 
substance was called asad ; they define it as the " non- 
being being/' and with those three words you have 
exactly the idea upon which Aristotle wastes pages and 
pages of senseless dialectics. Under the guidance of this 
asad you reach the familiar primeval idea of chaos as a 
world not yet ordered by thought, or to speak more 
correctly, not yet disentangled inside any thought. 
Uranos and chaos are thus the perceptions out of which 
these apparently pure abstractions draw that modicum 
of the sap of life without which even shadows cannot 
enter upon existence. 87 As forms of conception, however, 
Nous and prote hyle (or God and World) are no more 
than the attempt to distinguish between Thinking and 
Seeing, in other words the dissection of the primeval 
myth of all myths into its component parts. But as we 
saw in the former lecture and shall soon explain again 
from another standpoint, something impossible is here 



BRUNO 343 

demanded of human nature ; and so the paradoxical result 
arises that the pure object of thought (God) no longer 
gives us the smallest point for thought to lay hold of, 
and can only be perceived in the visible rotary move- 
ment of the starry heaven, whereas the object of sight 
(the primeval substance) becomes imperceptible to the 
eye, and only has a sort of imaginary existence as a 
conception devoid of idea. 

With this we may claim to have left behind us the 
second stage of the road along which this excursus leads 
us. First, in Bruno and Fechner on the one side, in 
Descartes and Kapila on the other, we have seen how the 
dream-born identification of thinking and seeing can lead 
us either to endow all nature, every constellation and 
every stone with life and with soul, or else to look upon 
even living beings as mechanical automata, and indeed 
to say of our own Ego, I am not. We have now studied 
one of the possible developments of the primeval myth 
in a series of consecutive thinkers, and we have seen how 
in Greece in the course of some 250 years the distinction 
between Thinking and Seeing, the two roots of our 
human Being and so also of our Senses, was continually 
being more and more clearly felt, and more keenly worked 
out, until at last here also a perfect Paradox was brought 
into being, and the pure object of thought (God) could 
only be seen, the pure object of sight (the substance of 
the World) could only be thought. As I have already 
pointed out, it is the dream-nature of our senses, as 
opposed to true critical reflection, which is ultimately 
responsible for contradictory results of that * sort ; 
we may admire and sing the praises of the bridge 
of the rainbow, but we can hardly hope that it will 
carry us over the yawning abyss. I think you will 
admit at once that the nous and the pvote hyle of 
Aristotle are just as much dream-pictures as the 
Gods wandering upon earth, the world-creating primeval 



344 BRUNO 

water of Thales, or the Pneuma-Logos and the fire of 
Heraclitus. 

Now I shall call upon you to face a third and more 
comprehensive consideration. I think that I shall be 
able to convince you that the fixed inter-relation between 
Seeing and Thinking, the manner and way in which that 
original comparison takes place in every brain, or to 
retain our metaphor, the way in which the mythical 
rainbow bridge forms itself and of necessity must form 
itself in every one of us according to the capabilities of 
his brain, is the determining power which influences the 
manner of thought in every individual. The possible 
forms of philosophy are all as it were ready to our hand, 
that is to say, prefigured : they are given by the nature 
of the human intellect ; whoever analyses to its founda- 
tions that which is personal, will reach that which is 
beyond personality. And just as in biological sciences 
the recognition of the species helps the study of the 
individual, so will the recognition of the generally possible 
" species of philosophies," in opposition to eternal history 
with its eternally crooked judgments, be of great service in 
the accurate investigation of the individual. 

You must in no wise believe that what you have seen 
in Hellas, the issue out of the concrete into the abstract, 
and of simple monism into maturely considered dualism, is 
a necessary development. Such conceptions with which 
we have been tarred and feathered since Hegel's time, and 
under the influence of the prevailing Darwinism, hinder 
all true comprehension. We pronounce the magic word 
" development," driving the phenomenon into boundless 
distance, and when we have lost sight of it, we believe 
that we have " explained " it. What " develops itself " is 
always the subsidiary, whereas what we want to arrive at 
is the essence of the thing itself. The progress of the 
so-called " development " may quite well be exactly the 
contrary in the gradual reversal of the philosophy of a 



BRUNO 345 

people. Amongst us moderns we can see both at once : 
a progress towards more and more abstraction (Hegel 
and the new school), a progress towards the more and 
more concrete (Descartes and the investigations of 
Nature) ; in Greece also Democritus laid the foundation 
of scientific empirical materialism at the very time when 
Socrates was paving the way for the autocracy of logic. 
There can never be any true understanding of phenomena 
when that which is mutable in them is taken as the 
foundation instead of that which is stable and eternal. 
That is why, fortified by the historical example of Greek 
mental achievements, we must now go further, analyse 
more exactly, and endeavour to reach the eternal super- 
personal foundation out of which, as the necessarily 
constant ground of all human Thinking and Seeing, the 
differently natured, and yet again imperishable, philos- 
ophies, so peculiarly inter-chained the one with the 
other, proceed. Everywhere in nature, if we are un- 
prejudiced and yet keenly observant, we can discover 
great simple relations : the same holds good with our 
brains ; once these relations axe clearly recognised and 
distinctly formulated, then we can the better pene- 
trate the numberless eternally new phenomena of the 
Personal. 

With this view I will now propose to you a Scheme 
a Scheme of the possible ways of Seeing and Thinking, 
and of their possible combinations ; you will see how 
exactly our different philosophical systems are conditioned 
by these inborn aptitudes, and therefore by what we 
have hitherto for brevity's sake called the Manner of 
Seeing. 

My previous lectures have shown you what I think 
about Schemes, A Scheme must be schematic, it must 
never shift its ground into the place of living insight, of 
which it must only be the handmaid. You already 
possess a certain store of living insight, and the rest will 



346 



BRUNO 



follow by degrees, until the skeleton of the scheme 
is clothed with flesh and blood as in the case of 
Descartes. 

I offer you a twofold dichogamy, a double branching. 
The primeval simple myth of the complete identity of 
Thinking and Seeing forks in the first place into two 
chief branches, according as the balance leans towards 
Thinking or Seeing ; that we have already fully explained 
by many examples : then the Thinking and Seeing 
themselves fork each into two branches, as will immedi- 
ately be more nearly set out as soon as we have sufficiently 
made the first great division intelligible : 




The Common Root 
(PrirnevaJ. Myth) 

Analysis then, in the first place, gives us the distinction 
between men who are mainly Seers and those who are 
mainly Thinkers. For simplicity's sake I put it in this 
way ; the contrast may be looked upon more narrowly 
or more broadly without being done away with, so that 
it comprises domains not necessarily differing in size, 
but different in general. That, however, need not 
trouble us here ; each of the different possible contrasts 
is an exact symbol of the other ; the contrast is clear 
and sharp ; it is that between understanding and the 
power of the senses (see the previous lecture), between 



BRUNO 347 

reason and empiricism, between the invisible Ego and 
the visible world, between ratiocination and observation, 
between the abstract and the concrete ; Thinking and 
Seeing comprise all these contrasts. I do not think that 
you will ever fall into doubt, or at any rate that you will 
ever remain in doubt, as to which of these two classes 
any pre-eminent intellect belongs to. You have seen 
how instructive was the contrast between the Seer 
Anaxagoras and the thinker Socrates : just in the same 
way Democritus and Aristotle, Descartes and Duns Scotus 
stand opposite to one another. Among the Indians, even 
among those who appear as atomists, Thinking is with 
all of them the preponderant branch, whereas with a 
Goethe, Seeing, in quite as extraordinary a degree, gives 
the casting vote. In this relation Goethe stands upon 
the same footing as the old Hellenic hylozoists, on the 
footing to which alone Kant allows any value in the 
investigation of nature; while, on the contrary, Bruno 
far outdoes even Aristotle in giving the preference to 
thinking, and so must be reckoned with the Indians, and 
Plotinus and Hegel among the one-sided Thinkers. Those 
pre-eminent intellects then with whom Thinking is 
markedly preponderant, deserve in a closer sense the 
title of Philosopher, and also enjoy the outspoken prefer- 
ence of our schoolmen, whereas those in whom Seeing is 
predominant are often not looked upon as philosophers, 
though they are certainly what the Germans call Weltan- 
schauer, " observers of the world/' and not seldom in a 
more prominent degree than the others. 

Here I must put in a caution against misunderstandings. 
The distinction between Thinkers and Seers, however 
real it may be, only points to a greater or lesser, or to 
put it better, a preponderant direction of the mincL Just 
in the same way as understanding and the senses grow 
together so inseparably that neither can exist without 
the other (see p, 276), so all Thinking is rooted in Seeing 



348 BRUNO 

(as you perceived just now in the most abstract 
thoughts) and no Seeing can exist without being bound 
up with Thinking. A man may be as specific a Thinker 
as he pleases, or as a Seer of the world busy himself ever 
so passionately with all possible pure Seeing, still that 
Thinker must at every step See something, and the Seer 
can never succeed in purifying what he sees from the 
element of Thought, otherwise the one would have mere 
empty thoughts, and the other would have blind per- 
ceptions (p. 226). Even the author of the Brihaddranyaka 
Upanishad can only speak in diagrams, and Goethe is 
compelled to repeat his perception of primeval forms as 
thought. In every personality then we have the two, a 
Thinking and a Seeing, and as we are only taking into 
consideration the master-intellects, we may expect to 
find both supremely developed; our distinction only 
should serve to express the predominance of the one 
element over the other. This predominance, however, 
is a fundamental fact, perhaps the weightiest of all in 
gauging the intellectual personality. 

Still, in spite of all that, the knowledge of this fact 
alone does not lead us to the more exact appreciation of 
the single individuality, since the mental horizon defined 
by the preponderance of Seeing or Thinking is very wide, 
and embraces very variously constituted intelligences* 
Thus, for example, Aristotle and the Indians come 
together as specific Thinkers, and are yet fundamentally 
different ; while, on the other side, the extreme Thinker, 
Bruno, and the Seer Democritus, the master of Form, 
are in harmony in certain important doctrines. We 
must therefore carry our analysis further, by which 
means we shall discover not only that each one of the 
main branches, Thinking and Seeing, is again split in 
two, but also that the special form of intellect is quite 
remarkably determined by the relations between Thinking 
and Seeing. It is just in the specific Thinker that it is 



BRUNO 349 

important to know how his Seeing is constituted, and in 
the specific Seer in what lines his Thinking runs. With 
the help of our simple scheme you will soon gain a clear 
insight into these relations. 

As the result of a very simple observation we find, as I 
have said, a new forking of each of our two main branches, 
Thinking and Seeing, into two side branches. If I might 
express myself figuratively I should say that Thinking 
may be directed inwards or outwards ; Seeing can in 
the same way be adjusted in one or other of these two 
directions, inwards or outwards. Thinking can look 
towards itself and, turning its back on nature, see only 
the Ego, or since seeing is in this case impossible, 
ponder upon it ; or else Thinking can be turned upon 
perception and, in spite of all abstraction, raise itself 
aloft in Nature. In the Indian doctrine of the Vedinta, 
in which at last everything even Brahman the all- 
embracing Divine resolves itself into the Ego (Atmari), 
the first of these, Thinking directed inwards, is character- 
istic ; while Aristotle, who formed his conceptions of 
substance on exact observations of the movements of 
the stars, affords us a pre-eminent example of the second 
case, Thinking directed outwards. In Seeing the same 
distinction takes place, and that in a most striking way* 
For example, the Seeing of Democritus is entirely directed 
inwards, that means towards Thinking : it is true that 
this sage is a characteristic Seer, who takes nature, not 
thought, as his starting-point, indeed he violates Thinking 
where it is necessary : in spite of that, his atoms, his 
empty space, his mechanical explanation of the soul, are 
all " perceptions of thought " ; that is what constitutes 
their value, and at the same time their worthlessness ; 
that is why they are so practical for methodological 
appreciation, and so inaxbaiissible as soon as we grasp 
them with pure perception. Descartes' eye, on the con- 
trary, looks in the other direction, outwards and away 



350 BRUNO 

from Thinking. It is very easy to laugh over Descartes' 
crotchets, his Vortices, and so forth, to reproach him 
with inadequate thought and the violence of his com- 
binations in his symbolical diagrams ; he was a man 
who needs must see everything in actual fact ; he 
knew no rest till he had taken in a combined Whole 
with his eyes ; it was impossible for him to think unless 
he saw. 

We can therefore distinguish a method of Thinking 
inwards and a method of Thinking outwards ; a method 
of Seeing inwards and a method of Seeing outwards. 

With a view to the practical proof of this distinction, 
I will at once call your attention to the fact that the 
distinctive intellectual attitudes, where they appear 
with any measure of consistency, must lead to fixed 
philosophical methods they must do so, there is no way 
out of it, and these philosophical opinions can in turn 
in doubtful cases render us good service for the detection 
of the inner tendency of a particular thinker, and give us 
the possibility of an unerring diagnosis. Thinking which 
is directed inwards will always lead to a more or less 
clearly formulated monism : the Ego, though perhaps 
not a uniformity (which is contested by certain psycho- 
logists), is nevertheless an organic unity, indeed the only 
one which we know by experience ; the man whose 
Thinking is directed upon the Ego may not always reach 
the Atman, but he will always reach some variety of the 
Alone : the thinking which is directed outwards is in the 
same way of necessity pluralistic, inasmuch as nature 
is manifold. You need only think of the fifty-six sub- 
stances of Aristotle ; every man who thinks inwards, 
a ankara, a Parmenides, a Plotinus, a Bruno, a Hegel, 
looks upon an idea of that sort, with the whole argument 
that leads to it, as an abomination : if such a thinker 
needs numbers, he brings them forward in a Pythagorean 
manner as magic-working symbols for thoughts which 



BRUNO 351 

impose laws upon nature, but accept none from her. Of 
Seeing we may say, that Seeing which is directed inwards, 
that is towards thinking, leads with precisely the same 
necessity to Atomism, and that Seeing which is directed 
outwards, or away from thinking, leads to the idea of an 
Organism, that is to say, of a universe complete without 
a lacuna, not falling into separate parts. It is true that 
Nature, as I have already remarked, shows a manifold 
character, and yet at the same time a flawless unity : the 



Inwards Outwards 




Inwards 



The Common Root 
(Primeval Myth) 

idea of the atoms docs away with both. The calculating 
man, a Newton, and the Greek who cannot cease reasoning 
(a Democritus), will always reassert the theory of atoms 
and empty space ; in that way he learns and teaches 
mastery over nature ; but the man with eyes fixed open 
upon living nature, the man who in the process of per- 
ception resolutely, and with distrust, turns his back upon 
Thinking (a Descartes, a Goethe), will never be reconciled 
to " forces working at a distance/' and " the breaking up 
into atoms " ; he must have a Whole, of which the 
manifold character is not a mechanical but an organic 
unity* 



352 BRUNO 

Let me impress this upon you by a tabular statement : 



Thinking- 



Seeing 



Inwards Monism 

(Domination of the soul) 
Outwards Pluralism 

(Dualism of body and soul) 
Inwards Atomism 

(Mechanism) 
Outwards Organicism 

(Dynamism) 28 



and with this I add for the further explanation of our 
table, that monism always leads, sooner or later, to the 
acceptation of the domination of the soul in nature, 
whereas pluralism achieves its first and most important 
separation in the severance of body and soul ; that the 
idea of Atoms of necessity involves the purely mechanical 
significance of phenomena (that is to say, by pressure 
and impact), whereas the organistic view leads you to 
that significance which Kant called the " dynamic/' and 
which ultimately allows all that happens to be conditioned 
through the figure, that is form, comprehensively imagined, 
and therefore through the shape of the universe as a 
whole. 29 Looked at from the point of view of Seeing, 
it is just the Ego (upon which Thinking inwards is 
directed), which represents that which is entirely without 
form, whereas nature represents unconditional form : 
hence atomism, which arises out of Seeing inwards, 
disintegrates all form, whereas Organism (born of seeing 
outwards) proceeds from the fact of form. 

In order that you may at once picture to yourselves 
something intelligible in this last distinction which may 
perhaps offer some difficulties to those who have had no 
training in natural science, I will refer you to the following 
example, which, complicated as it is, you may yet be able 
to grasp, and which is at any rate stimulating : Darwin, 



BRUNO 353 

the Democritus of organic science, a mian whose Seeing, 
like Newton's, is always directed inwards, and therefore 
has no pure view of Nature, while at the same time he 
utilises her practically and logically,- Darwin is an 
atomist in the domain of Organism. In his view every 
being, every individual, stands as it were alone. All 
organisms vary into infinity in all directions, and it is 
only the accident of surroundings, which contain all 
manner of hindrances and stimulants, which causes a 
temporary misleading permanency of forms. For instance, 
if our butterflies have a very long proboscis, that arises 
out of the fact that those with a shorter proboscis can 
draw no honey from those flowers with high funnel-shaped 
blossoms (Lilium, Paradisia, Crocus, Dianthus) which 
they delight in visiting, and must consequently die or 
else, adapting themselves to other flowers, develop them- 
selves into another species. In that way Darwin attributes 
to the flower the evolution of the long proboscis. And 
his pupil, Hermann Miiller, says the same in another 
form, when he writes in his treatise on Alpine plants 
(AlpenUumen, 1881, p. 509) : " The butterflies have the 
advantage of having been able with their long, thin 
proboscis to raise a breed of plants/' It little matters 
whether the butterfly breeds the flower, or the flower the 
butterfly, if you only learn to see how in this conception 
atomistically every single living individual stands in 
relation to every other, 30 That is why Darwin constantly 
uses the expression " a species is being manufactured/' 81 
and gives it as his opinion that it is unlikely that such a 
manufacture, or any one of its parts, should suddenly have 
come into perfect existence. 82 On the other hand, an 
organic conception of the forms of life must represent 
form as its primary condition. It would look upon 
perfection and imperfection as a human fiction ; it 
would never admit that nature could by practice produce 
to-morrow wltat it is incapable of producing to-day ; 
L * 2 A 



354 BRUNO 

rather should the whole life upon earth be regarded as 
an organised Whole, in which every part stands in relation 
to every other part, and in which neither the flower breeds 
the butterfly, nor the butterfly the flower, but both arise 
at one and the same time out of the form and the motion 
of the Whole. Just as when one organ of a living being 
undergoes changes, remote organs are brought into 
sympathy by so-called " correlation," 33 so according 
to such an organic conception a correlation would take 
place between all 'different living beings, that is to say, 
a correlation within the universal manifestation of life. 
This is a perception which unfortunately we do not 
possess for the kingdom of life in general ; but it will not 
be for long that it will be wanting, and it will bear glorious 
fruit. In the meantime Descartes, as you have seen in 
the previous lecture, has made a beginning in his Symbol 
of the -52ther, and his Schematism of the laws of motion 
with the organisation of space, Kant and Laplace with 
the organisation of the world of stars, and lately Hertz, 
with his introduction of so-called " unseen masses," and 
"unseen motions" into mathematical physics, has 
prepared the way for an organisation of forces, whilst 
Lothar Meyer and Mendelejef by their investigations into 
the so-called " periodic system of the elements " have 
attacked the problem of the organisation of matter. 

So much for a preliminary understanding of these 
conceptions of " Atomism " and " Organicism " as 
terms for distinct directions of perception. 

But there is still a point upon which I must offer a few 
words of explanation, before we take into consideration 
the important subject of the relations between fixed 
Seeing and fixed Thinking. It will no doubt have struck 
you, and it will perhaps to a certain extent have puzzled 
you, that Thinking directed inwards enters into a certain 
relation with Seeing directed outwards, and in the same 
way Thinking directed outwards with Seeing directed 



BRUNO 355 

inwards. For the two last, Thinking outwards and Seeing 
inwards, lead to a plurality (plurality and atomism), and 
the two first, Thinking inwards and Seeing outwards, end 
by leading to a strictly unified idea (monism on one side, 
organism on the other). I think we can explain that well 
to ourselves if we abide by our diagram of inwards and 
outwards, and say to ourselves, Thinking directed inwards 
is a purer Thinking, that is a Thinking less dependent 
upon Seeing ; Seeing directed outwards is a purer form 
of Seeing less permeated with elements of Thinking ; the 
opposite holds good with Thinking directed outwards 
and Seeing directed inwards ; hence the relation between 
the apparent contradictions. The man whose Thinking 
is directed purely upon the introspection of his own self, 
his Atman, strictly speaking, sees no unity, but only the 
organic unity, /car egoxw, that by which indeed all is 
brought into union, the Ego, the whole activity of which 
consists in the constant reconstruction of unity, for which 
reason we are justified in calling it the " organising 
unity" : on the other hand, it is only in the first instance 
that the man whose vision rests purely upon nature per- 
ceives plurality ; but if this gaze of his remains constant, 
then the seer will behold, not indeed an inner, but an outer 
unity, the organised unity of which we spoke just now. 
The organising unity is that which Kant called the 
" unity of apperception/' the unrealisable inner Some- 
thing through which all perceptions and all Thoughts 
are drawn together into a single central point, and only 
the idle word-splitter will forbid us to call this central 
point which is metaphysical and yet the author of all 
reality, by the name of Ego. Organised Ujiity is that 
" Nature " which could not exist for us at all unless 
everything stood in relation to everything else, thus 
creating one complete and consistent form. It needs an 
intensive esoteric manner of thought to realise the 
organising unity as the Indians did : it would demand a 



356 BRUNO 

passionate devotion to nature, striving as Goethe strove, 
in order to perceive the organised unity everywhere. 
That is the goal to which those two roads lead, the 
Thinking directed inwards and the Seeing directed out- 
wards, and therefore they possess one common criterion, 
unification. That method of Thinking, on the contrary, 
which, as in Aristotle, is turned towards perception 
without possessing the pure force of true Seeing, neces- 
sarily remains enmeshed in manifoldness and plurality, 
and that method of Seeing which as in Democritus turns 
towards Thinking, must necessarily be inclined in accord- 
ance with thought to individualise the plurality which 
it holds, that is to say, to create atoms, " indivisibilities," 
In-dividuals, which all stand side by side immutably, 
and only mechanically come into relation with one 
another. 

Now we come to the most important use which we can 
make of our Scheme, that is to say, to the investigation 
of the different connections which are possible between 
Thinking and Seeing, in a human brain. 

It may happen that the man who Thinks outwards 
may also See outwards, as for example is the case with 
Aristotle, or yet it can happen that the man who Thinks 
outwards may See inwards, like Newton and the majority 
of our investigators of nature ; and in the same way 
Thinking directed inwards can be united to Seeing inwards 
or Seeing outwards. This gives rise to a rich manifold- 
ness ; for as, on the one side, all specific Thinkers con- 
stitute a group of men in relation to one another, contrasted 
with the specific Seers of the universe ; so the Seers who, 
like Goethe, are possessed of a method of Thinking which 
is directed inwards, are more nearly related in many ways 
to those specific Thinkers whose Thinking, like that of 
Bruno, is equally directed inwards, than these are to 
those whose Thinking is directed outwards. So, for 
example, a Bruno, in so far as he is an extreme Thinker, 



BRUNO 



357 



is certainly more closely related to the Thinker Aristotle 
'than to the passionate Seer Goethe ; on the other side, 
it can be shown that Bruno in certain relations stands 
nearer to a Goethe than to an Aristotle, indeed that he 
is actually a blood-relation ; and that arises out of the 
fact that Goethe's Thinking is directed inwards exactly 
like that of Bruno, that of Aristotle, on the contrary, 
is directed outwards. The systematic discussion of a 
series of examples will make that quite clear to you 
But before going over to that let me add one more word 



Inwards 



Outwards 




Oulwards 



Inwards 



The Common Root 
(Prime val Myth) 

about our diagram for here too perception renders 
yeoman's service to Thinking. 

Here in the middle we have " the common Root " as 
Kant calls it : we have allowed Thinking to branch to 
the right, Seeing to the left. I think that in order to 
delineate our diagram correctly we must draw that 
method of Thinking which, tries to escape from Seeing 
and bends back upon itself, as pointing downwards, in 
the effort to reach the common root. We must act in 
the same way with the Seeing which is directed outwards. 
We thus give expression to the fact that these two 
extreme directions are, as we have already briefly stated, 



358 BRUNO 

in certain relations striving against one another. On the 
other hand, the Thinking which is directed outwards 
and the Seeing which is directed inwards must be so 
drawn that they visibly leave the common root, and then 
incline towards one another. Here we make directly 
perceptible that which it would otherwise be difficult to 
make comprehensible : that is to say, how far the inner 
Thinking and the outer Seeing, although far removed from 
one another, still stand symmetrically in relation the one 
to the other, and in a certain sense travel in the same 
direction, as in the same way do the inner Seeing and 
the outer Thinking. But there is more yet which may be 
gathered from such a graphic Scheme provided that it be 
correctly drawn. For example, our Scheme shows you 
at once that out of the connection of Thinking directed 
inwards and Seeing directed outwards extraordinarily 
wide and harmonious personalities must presumably 
proceed, for this is patently the most comprehensive of 
all possible outlines : out of the connection of Thinking 
directed outwards and Seeing directed inwards, there 
will result in the same way relations harmonious and 
strong, but probably specially limited intelligences : as 
against which the two cross connections, in which both 
parts are directed outwards, or both parts are directed 
inwards, promise us very rich but in a high degree 
contradictory natures, since tendencies which are fighting 
against one another are united in the same brain. 

You will see the practical use of this manner of obser- 
vation if I now name a few examples ; and here I will in 
the first place furnish you with a cut-and-dried list 
in order that you may retain the different names, whilst 
I add a few explanatory remarks. In the first place I 
write down the different possible combinations, and then 
on the left set as examples the names of philosophers in 
whom Seeing is preponderant, on the right those who are 
in the main thinkers. 



BRUNO 359 

,, ,, (Thinking inwards ),,, , 
Goethe l Seeing outwards } &4opcnha(r. 

Democritus *Wnginwards Bruno. 

I Seeing inwards ) 

rx _L i Thinking outwards ) A . A , , 
Descartes <~ . b , , [Aristotle. 
| Seeing outwards ) 

XT ( Thinking outwards ) . 

Newton < c . b , J? 
( Seeing inwards ) 

You see above we have, where I have named Goethe 
and Schopenhauer, the broadest intellect which we can 
imagine : Thinking directed inwards, Seeing directed 
outwards. 84 Below, on the contrary, stands the narrowest 
thinkable intellectual aptitude : Thinking turned away 
from Thinking to Seeing, and Seeing turned away from 
Seeing to Thinking ; that is to say, Thinking which is 
not pure Thinking and Seeing which is not pure Seeing : 
whether any master-thinker ever possessed a talent of 
this kind, I should be inclined to doubt, at any rate 
I can name none ; and yet this is the ground upon 
which Newton and almost all natural science stand; I 
look upon this position as the strongest that the average 
man can occupy. Between these I have inserted the two 
intellectual aptitudes out of which the greatest part of 
what is in the scholastic sense commonly called " philos- 
ophy " has issued. Thinking and Seeing, both inwards, 
or Thinking and Seeing both outwards : we shall see as 
we go on, wherein the power of these aptitudes for the 
work of thought lies. We will now look more closely 
at each one of these great intellects from the point of 
view of our Scheme. 

From our first lecture we learnt the preponderant 
power of Goethe's eye ; seldom has the world had any 
experience of so pure an eye, that is to say, of one so 
entirely directed outwards. Therefore it is the relation 



360 BRUNO 

of things to one another and their combination into an 
organised Whole that he sees everywhere. " An inner 
and primeval community of all organisation is the 
foundation " : that is his creed : it is as you see the 
doctrine of organicism,* as I have called it, in its per- 
fected form, " the community of all organisation." Pure 
Seeing can judge in no other way, and it is laughable to 
assert that the man who all through his life so passion- 
ately fought against the atomist Newton, would, if he 
were alive now, sing paeans in honour of the atomist 
Darwin. His very doctrine of colour, as I showed in 
the second lecture, is a piece of constructive work, and 
that means nothing else than an attempt to follow the 
organisation of Nature, instead of breaking up nature 
into a mechanism of infinitesimal particles, after the 
manner of our scientific optics. Such then is Goethe's 
method of Seeing. Goethe's method of Thinking, on the 
contrary, is oriented inwards. Hence the mystic inclina- 
tions of his youth and the misunderstanding which led 
to the fuss over Spinoza : hence the tendency to grow 
quite blind in the after-feeling of religious ecstasy. " My 
soul has only antennae and no eyes : it gropes its way 
and does not see." 35 Hence the assertion : " I was born 
in the school of identity," that is to say, in the school 
which must deny every separated individuality, in opposi- 
tion to the poet's own words : 

Es gilt, man stelle sich wie man will, 
Doch endlich die Person 

" one may place oi^eself as one will, in the end it is 
personality that counts." 

Hence the inspiration of the soul which comes to the 
front from every nook and corner, " Nature is to the very 
core divinely alive " (Letters, 14, 8, 12), an intellectua 

* Organicismtts. A word coined by the author in order to express the 
notion that a special theory is implied. Organism would represent something 
concrete, and would not give the author's meaning. 



BRUNO 361 

character which sometimes transiently seduces him into 
errors of natural philosophy: hence the abstract scholastic 
doctrine "Life is the rotatory motion of the monads 
round itself." 36 

This comprehensive talent, Thinking inwards Seeing 
outwards, is I believe, fairly rare. Exclusive o.f Plato 
and Kant, whom I leave out at present for reasons to be 
given hereafter, Schopenhauer is probably the best 
known example among the famous thinkers ; as an 
expressed antiatomist and equally expressed monist, he 
belongs unquestionably to this class. Had Schopenhauer 
been merely a promulgator of the mystic unity, re- 
christened Will, he would not have been able in direct 
contradiction to the Indians whom he so often invokes, 
to produce the most brilliant writings which ever flowed 
from the pen of a philosopher, instead of formless 
stammering attempts at expressing that which it is 
impossible to express. That was the result of the Seeing 
outwards which shows him as closely related to Goethe. 
For perception alone furnishes our phantasy with material; 
but the nature of the thing involves the fact that the 
pure, and especially the intensive inward, thinker, generally 
Sees little and is hardly more than a dialectician ; you 
see that in the Indians, whose philosophical writings, the 
further they are removed from the Rig-Veda, become 
more and more poor in the power of making themselves 
clear : you see it in Aristotle, who at every moment loses 
himself in mental tangles in which no man is able to 
achieve a thought, because hardly a trace of perspicuity 
remains ; it is those who perceive that lend material to 
philosophy, and here too you have at once an example 
to your hand ; for if Descartes bears the title of " Father 
of Modern Philosophy," he has earned the name less by 
the metaphysical mental work, which he has given us, 
than by the enormous material for perception which he 
has created for us. Schopenhktier is to a certain extent 



362 BRUNO 

a Brahman gifted with Eyes : all his life he showed a 
passionate interest and deep understanding for the 
organic sciences (the inorganic sciences were remote from 
him on account of their more abstract nature), so that he 
has the power not only like the Indians to look upon 
organism as the obj edification of Will, but, as the Indians 
never could, to follow this organism in many particulars 
of its manifestation. That is why the most abstruse 
philosophy which ever was invented by mankind gains 
fresh life at his hands, and becomes so fascinatingly 
interesting that even our most frivolous worldlings read 
these volumes. And just because he with his Seeing 
directed outwards is a specific thinker of the first import- 
ance, he avoids falling into Goethe's mistake of seeking 
salvation in the abstract monads, which he declares are 
" a monstrous identification of two nonentities." 

A special distinguishing mark of this rare form of 
intellect, born of the amalgamation of Thinking inwards 
and Seeing outwards, is the direct juxtaposition of ap- 
parent contradictions as well in thinking as in character : 
that is as true of Goethe as it is of Schopenhauer : in 
Goethe, for example, the ecstasy of the poet cheek by 
jowl with comparative osteology, in Schopenhauer physio- 
logical acumen in the phenomena of life, with the belief in 
magic and spiritualism. 

The relationship which our tabular statement reveals 
between Democritus and Bruno has now and again 
struck the more discriminating observers, still I do not 
think that it has as yet been traced back to its origin. 
Windelband, for instance, believes that he can discover 
in Bruno from his youth up the germs of two opposite 
" tendencies," and considers that the one comes to the 
front most in one half of his life, the other in the second 
half ; S7 an essentially correct observation which distin- 
guishes itself advantageously from the attempts forcibly 
to banish out of the world the many contradictions in 



BRUNO 363 

Bruno, and also from the usual phrase of a " develop- 
ment," by means of which the original monist by degrees 
quietly became an Atomist. Windelband saw more 
keenly here than most of his colleagues. Still it remains 
a riddle for the reader how it can have been possible that 
apparent contradictions should have germinated in the 
brain of a great thinker at the same time. In truth 
there is no contradiction between Monism and Atomism, 
at any rate no organic contradiction, but at the most, so 
far as I for my part can admit, a logical contradiction. 
Monism, in which the soul is all in all, is a thought, 
Atomism (mechanism) is a perception even though it 
should only be an abstract perception. And these two 
men of genius, Democritus and Bruno, are sufficient 
proof that a Seeing inwards may well exist together with 
a Thinking inwards, and as a consequence Monism with 
Atomism : it is certainly no inharmonious condition 
even if, as our diagram shows, we may expect tolerably 
steep difficulties to cross over. 

Now let us look at Bruno. 

It is impossible to imagine the soul having greater 
power than it has in him. Sono tutte le cose animate . . . 
sia pw cosa quanta piccola et minima si vogla, ha in se 
parte di sustanza spirituale , . . perche spirto si trova in 
tutte le cose et non e minima corpusculo che non contegna 
cotal portione in se che non inamini (De la Causa, p. 236) ; 
that the stars revolve in their courses is not the result of 
physical causes, but happens because these piu divini 
animali dell' universe choose to revolve (vutt anima vis 
moveri) ; their movement is the symptom of their life. 

Hie etenim effectus vita est f vita hoc quoque sigwwn** 

And his monism is just as unqualified ; for these souls 
are not many souls but one soul : anima ubique est wna ; 
Vanima del mondo . . . 6 tutto in tutto ; onde al fine 
(data che sieno innumerabili individui) ogni cosa e uno et 
il conoscere questa unitd e il scope e termine di tutte le 



364 BRUNO 

philosophic e contemplazioni nafarali. And yet as soon 
as Bruno, from his youth up (be it remembered that he 
disappeared at the age of 42) begins to See rather than 
Think, he becomes an Atomist, and that because he 
cannot do otherwise, because his Seeing is never purely 
directed upon the phenomena of nature, but is always a 
mental Seeing, and mental Seeing leads to Atomism as 
inevitably as Thinking without perception leads to 
Monism. And so with the dogmatic keenness which is 
peculiar to him he declares that the man who ignores 
Atoms can make no magnitude intelligible : where there 
is no indivisible unity there can be nothing ; all investiga- 
tion of nature must proceed from the Atom, 89 consists 
of observations of the Atom, and ends in the science of 
the Atom. 40 So you see Bruno is at the same time a 
dogmatic Monist and a dogmatic Atomist. 

The position of Democritus follows on corresponding 
lines. I need not waste words over the Atomism of 
Democritus he is known universally as the inventor or, 
at any rate, as the perfecter of the doctrine of atoms 
nor do I need to argue how much more realistically, more 
concretely, and more visibly the atoms appear to him 
than they do to Bruno ; his intellectual aptitude is 
responsible for that, inasmuch as it starts with Seeing, 
whereas Bruno was and remained a scholastic Dialectician. 
Our histories do justice to the specific Seeing of Democritus : 
the same cannot be said of his Thinking : there is, on the 
contrary, as it seems to me, much misunderstanding upon 
the subject of his doctrine of the soul, and that because 
under the domination of Aristotelian-religious dualism, 
we have unlearnt the art of doing justice to Ideal com- 
plexes which are altogether differently constituted. When 
we men of to-day hear the word soul, we think of some- 
thing utterly separated from all corporeal manifestations, 
the tyvxq of Aristotle, and the PensSe of Descartes 
opposed to all expansion. How could any true monism 



BRUNO 365 

be purely expressed within such a mental Scheme as this ? 
When Democritus says that even the soul consists of 
Atoms, he must be taught by Professor Zeller that such 
a soul as that is really no soul, but only " the material 
of which souls are made " : to which is appended the 
further deep remark, " spirituality is considered by him 
not as the power over the whole material, but only a 
part of the material/' Such a reproach would certainly 
start Democritus in an outburst of his proverbial laughter, 
and he would answer : " Most honoured Geheimrat, all 
respect to your immense learning ! But inasmuch as I, 
like my predecessors the Brahmans, my contemporaries 
the Eleatics, my followers Plotinus, Bruno, Hegel, and 
many others, found it more correct and to myself person- 
ally more tolerable, to explain the world as consisting of 
one principle; and not of two or more, what*could I or 
any other monist do but regard matter as spirit or else 
spirit as matter ? And as Seeing was my starting-point 
I preferred the latter alternative/' This one reproach of 
Zeller's suffices to give us an insight which is as bright 
as day before our eyes, and yet one which in the dust- 
storm of learned discussions no one sees, namely, that 
Democritus was fundamentally a monist, not of course 
with the dogmatic keenness of a Bruno, and yet quite as 
clearly so, since he rejected all dualism. Aristotle saw 
that right well when he said of him, " the man who 
assumes a single substance also assumes a single soul 
not several souls. ' U1 The words Soul and Matter lose their 
absolute significance as soon as only the One is assumed ; a 
minimum of philosophic knowledge should suffice for 
this insight. It is the same with the ideas of Democritus 
as to the Godhead. Schwegler tells us in bis unf ortunately 
still much-read manual that " unity, the spiritual bond 
of the universe, was lost " in Democritus, and as a punish- 
ment he puts him back a hundred years, behind Xeno- 
phanes ! In Zeller as with the rest we axe everywhere 



366 BRUNO 

told that the wicked man was an Atheist. The truth is 
that he taught the importance of the soul as all in all, 
and a divine nature, like Bruno and like Goethe. He 
held that all the forms of the earth consisted one half of 
soul (the animus of Lucretius) ; he was wont to call the 
human body a tent, a mere night refuge on a journey. 
And if he energetically threw aside the extra-mundane 
Nous of Anaxagoras, he still held that the Divine " dwelt 
in all things/' 42 

To me this comparison between Bruno and Democritus 
seems to explain much. Democritus, the investigator of 
nature, atomises everything, even the soul ; Bruno, the 
abstract philosopher, in spite of his poco curante doctrine, 
finds himself compelled to accept the Atoms, but he 
endows them with soul, just as he had done the stones, 
and so becomes the regenerator of the neo-Platonist 
monads. These two intellectual achievements, the atom- 
isation of the world, including the world of the soul, by 
Democritus, and the endowment of the atoms with souls 
by Bruno thus referring them to one single primeval 
monad, God, arise from a nearly related intellectual 
aptitude ; Seeing inwards in combination with Thinking 
inwards ; only that in the one case the philosopher sees 
more than he thinks, in the other thinks more than he 
sees. This mental tendency is, as I think, hardly rare, 
only it does not seem easily to further results of the very 
highest order ; in the nineteenth century we might name 
Fechner as the representative of Seeing in this fashion, 
and Lotze as the representative of the more abstract 
Thinkers. It is true that Fechner speaks of a cosmic 
organism and so forth, but that is quite in a different 
sense from that of Kant and Goethe ; the unity is with 
him a thought, not a perception ; when it comes to per- 
ception he is a dogmatic atomist, and builds his whole 
representation of the world upon the acceptation of forces 
working at a distance. 43 In Lotze as in Bruno we have 



BRUNO 367 

mechanical atomism pushed to the extreme, bound up 
with the doctrine of monads and the universal endow- 
ment of soul, everything that is real is spiritual. 

Of even greater importance for the history of human 
thought is the other one-sided intellectual aptitude ; 
Thinking outwards and Seeing outwards. The equations 
which proceed here between Seeing and Thinking seem 
to be in all cases rich and full of living power. For 
a man who Sees outwards like Descartes, whom we have 
named in our diagram as a pre-eminent representative 
of this tendency, instead of contenting himself with the 
barren insignificance of the formless atoms ; feeds his 
phantasy with ever new superhuman nourishment, and 
the Thinking which is directed outwards, which associates 
itself with Seeing, does not immediately sublimate every- 
thing back into the formless primeval unity, as is the 
case with Thinking directed inwards as in Goethe, for 
example, but consolidates it, perhaps artificially, perhaps 
high-handedly, and yet practically. If, however, in such 
,a man it is not Seeing but Thinking that is preponderant, 
as in our example Aristotle, then we see that this man 
also has an open eye for the facts of nature ; he may force 
the facts by the assumptions of his intellect but at least 
he leans upon them for support ; and because his eye 
preferentially sees that which is organic, so in his Thinking 
he will organise and create form. In both cases we may 
expect systems of philosophy that shall be firm, broadly 
designed, often dogmatic, but consistent. 

There is no need for me to exhibit Aristotle as a man 
whose Thinking is directed outwards ; he is the pluralist 
par excellence ; he is always dissecting. Still, when I use 
the word dissect, I must at the same time point out that 
he does not dismember : remember that the mere idea 
of atomism signifies a destruction of form : the atoms 
are not a mere thought-analysis of that which exists, but 
its practical dissolution ; that is why the abstract monist 



368 BRUNO 

so easily harmonises with this view which we praise as 
concretely natural-scientific, and teaches with Bruno : 
ogni volto, ogni faccia e vanitd e come nulla, every coun- 
tenance, every special form is a vain nothing. Very 
different was Aristotle. For him it is precisely form 
(floppy) by means of which a thing enters into the day- 
light of Being (evreXexeia) out of the night of non- 
existence (o-re/^a-i?). The whole of his achievements in 
the domain of pure thought (Logic, the categories, and 
so forth) is a taking to pieces with a view to reconstruction. 
But that his view of Nature is purely directed outwards 
you can gather with certainty from the one symptom 
that he is a declared antiatomist. Here the position of 
Aristotle is the exact reverse of that of Bruno. Bruno 
maintains that the universe has no bounds, that it is 
absolutely infinite, 44 but, on the other hand, looking 
downwards there must be a boundary, for if there were 
no atoms there could only be nothing, Aristotle's teach- 
ing, on the contrary, shows that, looking upwards there- 
are real individuals, and that means form, and that again 
means something which is bounded ; and so the world of 
the stars must have boundaries, otherwise it would be 
formless, and that means nullity ; 45 but downwards 
everything is one continuity (erwcx???), and therefore 
boundlessly divisible. 40 These two primary ideas of 
Aristotle, the individual and the continuous, arise, to 
hold by our formula, out of pure Seeing outwards ; they 
form the exact contradiction of the universal all-one 
and the atom. 

In the same group on our table, but with preponderant 
insistence upon Seeing, we find Descartes. In Descartes 
no one will question the fact that the Seeing is directed 
outwards : he organises space : that is the aim of his 
Principia. Like Aristotle, he is a deadly foe of the 
Atoms, of empty space, and of the forces working at a 
distance ; that is to say, he is a representative of the 



BRUNO 369 

organistic-dynamical standpoint in opposition to the 
atomistic mechanical. 47 And here you must take care 
not to stumble against a stone of offence, for you have 
already heard that Descartes looks upon all living beings 
as " machines," and now we see that he is a sworn enemy 
of the mechanical school. You must accurately understand 
what it is that Descartes means by machine. Just 
because in Descartes not Seeing alone but Thinking also 
is purely turned outwards, he is the bluntest dualist that 
ever lived : Aristotle does not come up to him in this. 
Now this Seeing combined with this Thinking necessarily 
leads him entirely to distinguish the so-called intellect 
prana> vdc, pneuma, psyche, nous, logos, etc., from concrete 
nature. The Monist, if you watch him closely, will 
always try to smuggle in a second idea, while the strict 
Dualist, Kapila in India, Descartes in Europe, maintains 
a perfectly " pure nature," if I may so express myself, 
and can therefore far more consistently treat her as 
monistic than the true monist, who has always something 
of the Janus bifrons about him, So it comes to pass that 
Descartes' natural science is out and out materialistic, as 
all exact science should be ; it is true science as we became 
acquainted with it in the second lecture, and in contra- 
distinction to Goethe's perception of nature. And this 
science can proceed in no other way than according to 
Kant's maxim : "I must always reflect upon all forms 
in material nature in accordance with the principle of the 
mere mechanism of nature, and so far as I can investigate 
it, because unless we base the investigation of nature 
upon it as a fundamental principle, there can be no true 
knowledge of nature/ 1 (Ur, 70.) That, however, gives rise 
to some misunderstanding ; for we pay too little attention 
to the fact that the conception "mechanism" occurs in 
two different senses. The man who accepts atoms and 
empty space believes that through the union of atoms, 
whether necessary or accidental, transient forms come into 



370 BRUNO 

being which consequently are only a manifestation of the 
fundamental movements of infinitesimal particles, and 
are therefore also of subordinate importance, which is 
the distinctive mark of all our atomistic science ; but the 
man who, on the contrary, assumes a space which is 
filled explains all movement within it as conditioned and 
required by form. The difference corresponds pretty 
nearly to that which is established in physics between 
Kinetics and Kinematics. Kinetics investigate the 
movement of causative powers, with respect to the 
masses of bodies, etc., and are of their essence arith- 
metical. Kinematics investigate the reciprocal positions 
of different parts, in other words the form of a Whole, 
and the movements which necessarily result from it, 
and are consequently essentially geometrical. From 
this comparison it is perfectly clear how far the one 
comprehension of "machine" may be abstract,- the 
other concrete the one a mere thought, the other a 
perception. Descartes under the word " machine " 
understands something concretely perceptible. If he 
speaks of machines with reference to living beings, he 
means thereby that he needs no intellectual principle, no 
soul, for the explanation of what takes place in nature, 
but confines its phenomena to a completely isolated 
domain, whereby he not only fundamentally rejects the 
spiritualist, but above all the scientific monist, who 
everywhere brings in the Soul. We must uncondition- 
ally admit that Descartes' machines are even more 
" mechanical " than those of a Democritus, a De la 
Mettrie, or a Ludwig Biichner : at the same time we 
must lay stress on the fact that the idea is a different one; 
Here philosophies differ in spite of a manifold common 
terminology. In this case the criterion is very simple, 
even though it should require the accurate knowledge of 
a thinker to apply it with certainty. In order to dis- 
tinguish machine from machine, it is only necessary to ask 



BRUNO 371 

oneself : does this philosopher consider organism to be a 
machine, or is the machine in his view an organism ? 

That is as much as need be said about Descartes' 
method of Seeing, His dualism is proof enough that his 
Thinking also was directed outwards. He certainly never 
possessed the stiff one-sidedness with which he has been 
accredited ; just as much as Kant he admitted the possi- 
bility of a " common root " : 48 but he saw the immense 
advantage that perception as well as thought would 
derive through being scrupulously separated from one 
another. Consistent materialistic science is impossible 
without dualism ; without it the Ego fades away and 
with it we lose the last point of support, the si fallor 
sum of St. Augustine, the cogito> ergo sum of Descartes, 
without which it is utterly impossible for us to speak 
scientifically of a world and of knowledge of the world. 
On the other hand, after Descartes had taught us clearly 
to distinguish between thought and expansion, the old 
familiar equation between Thinking and Seeing could never 
again be maintained with its unsophisticated effrontery. 49 
It was thanks to this splendid man that natural science 
threw off the shackles of the Socratic adulteration of 
reason and teleology ; and thought, freed from the servi- 
tude of a monstrous natural symbolicism, was now 
guided on the road to criticism. 60 

One word more before we close our observations upon 
this interesting intellectual character. The immense 
influence of an Aristotle and a Descartes upon the 
thought and investigations of Europe is openly manifest, 
but none the less have these very men been passionately 
attacked in all times, and indeed often by the best 
intellects. In order to be thoroughly aroused, philosophy 
and the investigation of nature were forced energetically 
to shake themselves free of Aristotle, all stood up 
against him the monists, the dualists, the mechanists, 
and the dynamists ; how Descartes was treated on all 



372 BRUNO 

hands I have set out in the previous lecture. It seems 
to me that this is accounted for in the following way. 
There is something violently arbitrary in this disposition 
to comprehend nature purely as nature, and Thinking 
also as nature. I hardly know whether you will under- 
stand me if I say that by this direction of thought the 
road to Ideas is blocked, that is to say, to those Ideas 
with which our first lecture, calling in Goethe as a 
support, dealt with, and which as Kant puts it beam 
back upon us out of the focus imaginarius. But it is 
just these ideas that are the true parents of Thinking in 
relation to Nature : it is here that the myth is born, 
the myth which expresses pure Truth, a Truth that 
never could have been inverted, like Goethe's Meta- 
morphosis and Kant's Freedom, whereas Thinking which 
is directed severely outwards rather analyses than 
observes, and rather organises than gives life. Goethe 
the great Seer, perceived that in full clearness without, 
however, having brought it together into a systematic 
connection. He complains that in Aristotle the archi- 
tectural man as he calls him the comprehension at once 
reaches empiricism without any intermediary ; 61 I think 
you must understand by now how in a thinker with such 
tendencies it could not be otherwise : it is only a bold 
leap that can lead from Thinking outwards to Seeing 
outwards. You have seen what pains Aristotle took to 
act as intermediary between God and the World : he 
met with but scant success. Of Descartes, who in contra- 
distinction to Aristotle started from empiricism, Goethe 
opined that he did not succeed in finding the connection 
with comprehensions. " He seems to be lacking in 
imagination and elevation : he finds no intellectual, 
living symbols, in order to bring near to himself and to 
others phenomena which it is difficult to express. He 
makes use of the crudest mental parables in order to 
explain that which cannot be grasped, even the incom- 



BRUNO 373 

prehensible." 52 That exactly hits the mark, and from 
the same standpoint as in the case of Aristotle, only that 
the one stands on one bank, the other on the other bank. 
And so we all of us as thinkers and investigators come to 
rebel against these two men in both of whom Thinking 
and Seeing are directed outwards. Architects they are, 
but they set to work with their materials crudely and 
arbitrarily ; they are wanting in the keenness and 
consistency of the Democritus-Bruno group (Thinking 
and Seeing inwards) as well as in the premonition and 
gentle intuition of the Goethe-Schopenhauer group 
(Thinking inwards, Seeing outwards) and the compact 
logical exclusiveness of the Newton group (Thinking 
outwards, Seeing inwards), at which we are now arriving. 
Still, they do not allow themselves to be finally routed and 
pushed on one side ; for we can dispense neither with the 
organisation of thought, nor with the organisation of 
that which is perceived, and no one is so fitted for such 
organisation as these two very men. 

One combination still remains to be spoken of : that 
of Thinking outwards and Seeing inwards. This is the 
true disposition to natural science ; the method of per- 
ception which results from it is reckoned by investigators 
of nature as of almost dogmatic value, and so far science 
has fared well under the limitations thus tyrannically 
imposed : every rebel has succumbed. I have already 
shown how here the two-sided limitation is the principle 
of intellectual life; it is also shown by our scheme- 
diagram. Thinking in this case does not in any way 
reflect upon itself, but addresses itself only to that which 
is perceived : but Seeing only takes count of so much in 
perceived nature as associates itself conveniently with 
Thinkmg ; all the rest it passes by with closed eyes. As 
Goethe says so pointedly of the investigators of nature : 
" in such people everything quickly turns inwards.*' 
This process of Seeing and this process of Thinking we 



374 BRUNO 

studied in detail in the second lecture in the example oi 
physical optics. It is anthropomorphism in its highest 
potentiality, for here we only think of what can reach 
the brain through the senses the whole world of the in- 
visible remains unobserved and perception only takes 
place in such a manner as the mechanically combining 
logic of the human brain chooses, the whole world of 
that which is truly visible remains equally unobserved. 
Here all wisdom rests upon the needle-poiht of the 
Anthropos and his special interests. Still, I would call 
attention to the great power which lies precisely in this. 
In Thinking which is entirely directed upon Seeing there 
can be no empty thoughts. In Seeing which is entirely 
directed upon Thinking " blind perceptions " are out of 
the question. Here everything is to the purpose, each 
part fits exactly into the other, it is the perfection of 
equilibrium. 

As for what concerns the specific Thinking of the 
investigators of Nature, it is to be observed that in most 
cases they content themselves with a minimum. I have 
already called attention to the special limitation in 
Newton's thinking, and have shown how advantageous this 
limitation was for the work which he had in hand. Much 
might be said about the difficulties which many of the most 
important investigators of nature, indeed we might say 
the majority of them, experience in understanding philo- 
sophical thoughts, even the formulation of the question 
upon which all philosophy is based ; it is a melancholy 
chapter, for in consequence of this shortcoming the just 
respect which famous investigators enjoy among us has 
at the same time led to a widespread philosophical dull- 
ness, which is in its turn a great danger for the universal 
position of culture. That even a Helmholtz should have 
shown himself to be utterly incapable of really under-* 
standing the aim and methods of Kant's critical investi- 
gation of the human intellect, is the fact that I have 



BRUNO 375 

already discussed, referring you to Classen's irrefutable 
arguments. What are we to say of Lord Kelvin whom 
years ago Zollner attacked on this point, and of all the 
so-called English natural philosophers in a body ? I 
prefer to call attention to a last new example, the chemist 
Wilhelm Ostwald, for we cannot afford to pass over in 
silence the incurable limitation of this order of thought. 
Every friend of science honours the name of Ostwald. 
Out of the chaos of chemistry, Ostwald has known how 
to construct a perspicuous erection, and his little book, 
Wissenschaftliche Grundlagen der analytischen Chemie 
(" scientific foundations of analytical Chemistry "), is 
the delight of all those who, like myself, have had to 
build up their knowledge of chemistry in the laboratory 
out of a thousand disconnected fragments, without a 
trace of any intellectual bond of union. This learned 
man, whose methodological talent is so pre-eminent, has 
recently gone over to philosophy. Of his " lectures on 
natural philosophy " in which he develops his own philos- 
ophy, I will say nothing ; that would lead us too far : 
but he is now publishing a periodical, Annalen der 
Naturphilosophie, and the first number is adorned by a 
special critical study of Kant. What is offered h^re 
surpasses all imagination. Listen only to the following 
sentence ; " to Kant's leading question, how are synthetic 
judgments possible a priori? we answer, judgments a 
priori are indeed impossible, and all knowledge arises 
out of experience." 53 Pray do not take alarm at the 
expression " synthetic judgments a priori " : we are 
dealing with something which the properly trained man 
can easily grasp, and for which Kant, as was his wont, 
used a scholastic term ; the whole conclusion of our 
lecture on Descartes has shown you that in order to per- 
ceive things, there must be a form of perception, and 
the same is the case with thought so that as Kaat says, 
there must be " conditions of experience " ; it is to this 



376 BRUNO 

that the somewhat irritating expression " synthetic judg- 
ments a priori " refers. Sometimes Kant substitutes for 
it the more descriptive word erweiterungs urteile, by which 
it is implied that we add to the perception something 
more than the perception itself contained, before the so- 
called experience comes into being. For the moment, 
however, the remark will suffice that the one and only 
question out of which the whole Kritik der reinen 
Vernunft arises, is this, How is experience in general 
possible ? That all knowledge arises only from experience, 
that is the impregnable conviction for which Kant gave 
his whole life ; he maintained this view against a whole 
world of theological prejudice and Aristotelian scholastic 
dogmas of reason, and at the same time he brushed away 
the insufficient, halting, metaphysically unsatisfactory 
attempts of Descartes, Locke, and Hume ; he is the 
first and only one who taught and proved that all know- 
ledge springs from experience ; he it is who once for all 
deprived of their deceptive brilliancy the lume interno 
and the divino sole intellettuale of Bruno 54 and his modern 
partisans, and in the place of all so-called inner illumina- 
tion substituted the dictum " all recognition of things 
out of pure understanding or pure reason is nothing but 
mere moonshine, and only in experience is there truth." 
(P. Anh.) But here it is necessary to make a distinction. 
For if by experience we understand only pure empirical 
experience, only the evidence of the senses without any 
intellectual assistance, then obviously we can by these 
means alone arrive at no clear perception of anything. 
Of experience so understood Kant says on the very first 
page of the Reine Vernunft : " But although all our 
recognition may begin with experience, still it does not 
all spring out of experience. For it might well be that 
even our recognition of experience might be a compound 
made up of what we receive by impressions, together 
with what our own power of recognition, merely following 



BRUNO 377 

on impressions of the senses, automatically gives out, an 
addition which we do not distinguish from that funda- 
mental material until long practice has made us careful 
to observe it and clever at defining it." I refer you to our 
first lecture (p. 86 seq.), where I gave you detailed informa- 
tion upon this, and showed you that we might quite justly 
call The Critique of Pure Reason the " preparatory 
school of experience." And now comes our bold chemist, m 
and thinks himself compelled to aver against Kant that 
all knowledge originates in experience ! That is just 
what has got to be proved and what can only be irre- 
futably set out by a systematic metaphysical analysis of 
experience, a dissection of every apparently simple 
experience into its component parts, and an exact 
following up to its origin of every component part, that 
is to say, a complete exposition of the proceeding of our 
human recognition. " The most difficult part of all 
criticism is the analysis of experience and the principles 
of the possibility of the latter/' so writes Kant to his 
pupil Beck. (20. 1. 1792.) It was for this, for the sake of 
the proof, only to be gained by an analysis of experience, 
that all knowledge without exception comes from experi- 
ence, that Kant wrote his critiques. And in them he shows 
with mathematical precision that what is called experi- 
ence, could in no way come into being, unless our intellect 
were organised for the pronouncing of fixed judgments, 56 
through which unity is first achieved between the number- 
less meshes of perceptions (just the judgments a priori) : 
and from that he at once deduced that these very judg- 
ments can only be used for perceptions, and have no in 
any way qualified significance outside of the domain of 
experience. So that he asserts with apodictic certainty : 
" unless we begin with experience, or unless we proceed 
according to laws of the empirical connection of phe- 
nomena, we make a poor show of trying to guess at or 
investigate the existence of anything/' (R.V. 274.) That 



378 BRUNO 

was the blow with which he once for all felled all obscuran- 
tism religious obscurantism and scientific obscurantism. 
For so long as it is not made clear that the immovable 
boundaries of our knowledge and thought are given in 
our own human nature, the door is thrown wide open to 
fanaticism and dogmatism. Here, as Kant says, " the 
nihil ulterius must be placarded on the pillars of Hercules 
which nature herself has raised in order to cany the 
voyage of our reason only so far as the ever-receding 
coasts of experience can reach." But now there arises a 
new species of the exterminated obscurantists ; they 
have left the cloisters for the laboratories, and from 
thence, in the name of science forsooth, they desire to 
annihilate the most precious conquests of our whole 
culture and to replace criticism by a modern dogmatism, 
the dogmatism of an antimetaphysical pseudo-scientific 
" experience." Kant had already exercised his wit upon 
them ; " various natural-history professors of modern 
times think that they can catch the eel of science by the 
tail" (Tr. II. Anf,) ; Ostwald belongs to that class. It is 
just forty years since that eminent man who was so 
genuinely a strict empirical thinker, to whom we owe so 
much, Friedrich Albert Lange, attacked precisely the same 
narrowness of conception in John Stuart Mill : he showed 
that Mill never understood what Kant was talking about, 
since " Kant begins where Mill leaves off," and very 
rightly remarked that Mill was perfectly satisfied where 
for Kant the question, " how is experience possible ? " 
first arises. 56 But it was of no use ; this Thinking that 
is not pure, combined with Seeing that is not pure, in a 
systematically one-sided development, breeds a limitation 
so peculiar, that these people end by becoming practically 
unable to grasp a real thought. You can read further in 
Ostwald's treatise. Anybody with a glimmer of Kant's 
aim and achievements, cannot believe his eyes, and 
balances between ringing laughter and angry displeasure* 



BRUNO 379 

I have several times studied the treatise to see whether 
Ostwald in any passage, I will not say grasped a single 
thought of Kant's, that would be too much to expect, 
but whether he ever approximately suspected its true 
meaning, whether he ever remarked what it was that 
Kant actually was speaking of : the result was negative. 
And that is the sort of stuff that is written, printed, read, 
and which whoever wishes to be up-to-date must buy. 
A deeply mortifying phenomenon ! It would not matter 
if our chemists, like Ostwald, or our zoologists, like 
Haeckel, were unable to understand the first principles 
of all philosophy : their own domain is wide enough, and 
as Kant a hundred and twenty years ago answered an 
Ostwald of those days, " it really is not necessary that 
every man should study metaphysics " ; 57 still, in a 
country like Germany, where famous specialists possess 
such enormous influence, the unhappy dilettantism of 
these people who leave their retorts and microscopes, in 
order to develop systems of philosophy in the course of a 
night, is apt to grow into a cultural danger. So it is here. 
Kant was a pioneer of freedom ; his lif ework of criticism 
is such a fruitful destroyer of all superstition and all 
historical dogmatism, that Rome itself trembles before 
this man. But now our freedom; our innermost freedom, 
the release from the delusions of many thousand years, 
is once more being cruelly threatened ; the enemy is 
under arms along the whole line. We Teutons have not 
only subjected the whole surface of this planet to our 
commerce, but have determined to rise to new ideals, 
worthy of free men, to ideals purged of Judaism and 
Egyptology : but how are we to conquer if to the religious 
fables of antiquity, and the grandiose thought-structures 
of the clerical philosophers, we have nothing better to 
oppose than the poor stammerings of the Ostwalds and 
Haeckels ? 

So much for the Thinking of the investigators of 



3 8o BRUNO 

nature. You know that there are many who are not of 
the same mind as these somewhat arrogant spokesmen, 
indeed that many of our most successful investigators 
are on Kant's side ; one of our most sturdy practical 
zoologists when he had read Ostwald's above-mentioned 
treatise threw it into his waste-paper basket, with the 
indignant cry "philosophical barbarism"! Still, it is 
striking that the more deeply thinking investigators of 
nature have rare and small influence upon the ear of the 
majority of their colleagues, and consequently of the 
public. A Descartes is more stimulant in philosophy 
than in natural history, and a Heinrich Hertz remains 
under the suspicion of his colleagues on account of his 
acceptance of unseen motions. I think that that is 
connected with that universal disposition with which 
you are now acquainted, and which is alone profitable 
in what is called " exact investigation." The best 
aptitude for such investigation is abstract Seeing com- 
bined with concrete Thinking; manifestly it must be 
the most unfavourable disposition for all philosophy. 
You know what electricians call short circuit ? Instead 
of completing its course and, for example, setting alight 
all the lamps in a house, the electric current jumps from 
one branch of the circuit to another and goes back 
purposelessly to its starting-point : as soon as the 
typical investigator of nature tries to leave the domain 
allotted to him, this short circuit manifests itself in him : 
he can neither force his way to the subject either on the 
side of Thinking nor on that of Seeing, but circles aimlessly 
round and round inside of the narrowest horizon that 
can be imposed upon the human intellect. Thinkers 
after the manner of an Ostwald and a Haeckel, when they 
leave the ground of their uncontested and unboundedly 
admirable mastery in order to tinker at metaphysics, 
may as, it seems to me, be excellently well defined as 
" short-circuit philosophers." 



BRUNO 381 

It is hardly necessary to expatiate more closely upon 
the method of Seeing in this form of intellectual capacity, 
for the subject was treated in detail in our second lecture. 
From that lecture it is possible for us to give a mathe- 
matically exact definition of this method of Seeing : it is 
the manner of Seeing which, as far as possible, is con- 
cerned only with the pure form of perception, while, on 
the contrary, it takes as little notice as may be of the 
empirical side of perception. Here then we again see the 
utmost limitation as regards that which is only human, 
and a fundamental neglect of that nature which is extra- 
human. There are certainly still sciences in which 
description plays a dominant part, because it is needful 
in the first instance to gather up the facts ; but the 
necessary tendency of aU exact science is, as already 
shown, the elimination of the empirical ; it is only in that 
way that it can become " exact." I have already brought 
to light the special force which lies in this combination of 
abstract Seeing with concrete Thinking, and I showed it 
in the example of scientific optics. Here Thinking and 
Seeing directly join hands, and weave themselves into one 
another in such a fashion, that the average investigator 
of nature is quite unable mentally to distinguish between 
that which is only thought and that which is really seen. 

Whether there could be any specific thinkers who 
could belong to this group seems to me doubtful ; I 
search my memory and cannot name one. It is only in 
the realm of natural science, only with Seeing as a 
starting-point, that this intellectual disposition can 
achieve great intellectual feats, as for example in the case 
of Newton ; the specific thinker, on the contrary, must, 
one would imagine, at once be suffocated, 

We have now come to an end of the analytical examina- 
tion of our Scheme : I must, however, ask leave to add a 
few words by way of general orientation. 



382 BRUNO 

In the first place let me point out that in this Scheme 
I have only had in my mind the Indo-Europeans, and 
even amongst them only those thinkers who elevate 
themselves to a school of philosophy. 

A man like Spinoza, for instance, belongs to another 
world, and that for one special reason : in him the spirit 
of mythicism is wanting. Whereas the Indians had 
taught that the very Gods themselves could not fathom 
the secret of existence, and Aristotle, with his very 
positive intellect, made all philosophy have its origin in 
self-amazement, and go off into countless aTroplai, that is 
to say, questions incapable of solution, Spinoza recog- 
nises no mysterium, he is astonished at nothing, saying 
expressly that no question rises above the human power 
of comprehension, and everything can be explained in 
the most convenient manner (commodissime explicari). 
What is wanting here is that fountain-head of nature out 
of which not only all mythology, but moreover, all 
science and all philosophy spring : namely Phantasy. 
" In the hands of the Semites," says Renan, " the myths 
are all transformed into flat historical reports." 58 Here 
is a case in point : Spinoza is the dreamless man. Let us 
open Descartes' correspondence. We hear much there of 
his glorious dreams " which carry him into woods, 
gardens, and magicians' castles, where he lives all the 
joys that poets ever imagined," he tells us too how " the 
day-dreams at his waking become unconsciously fused 
with the dreams of the night/' 59 Whereas the man to 
whom the night reveals nothing is incapable of seeing 
that the morning sun adds to the nightly secret of the 
true Ego the thousand insoluble secrets of the non-Ego. 
The man who is dreamless can never understand the men 
who are rich in dreams. So much the more questionable 
does it become when the former takes all that is marrow 
and bone in him from the latter, as is the case with 
Spinoza : for of his two principal works the one is 



BRUNO 383 

entitled An Exposition of the Principles of the Philosophy 
of Descartes, while the other, the Ethics, certainly does 
not bear Bruno's name, but derives all its fundamental 
principles from him, and demonstrably out of an intimate 
familiarity with his chief works. 60 To have brought 
Descartes and Bruno, the two diametrically opposed 
intellects, under one roof is certainly an achievement ; 
but it is one in which only a man totally foreign to both 
of them could succeed, a man who. never grasped their 
living personality, but only certain formal moments in 
the texture of their methods of thinking. The mere 
title of the work on Descartes shows how little real under- 
standing of our philosophers Spinoza possessed : he says 
that the " Principles " are more geometrico demonstrate 
demonstrated or proved geometrically. But you know 
from our former lecture that Descartes, great mathe- 
matician as he was, nevertheless saw in mathematics 
" only the husk of the (philosophical) method/' Venveloppe 
de cette methode 9 not the method itself, and that he, like 
Plato, only recognised in mathematics the significance of 
a training of the understanding, *' of a means of culti- 
vating philosophical thought, and a road leading to 
knowledge/' 61 You know also what was his opinion of 
definitions and syllogisms, qui embanassent en pensant 
conduire, and which are only fitted to make what is clear 
dark, and to block the road to true insight. And now 
comes a man, and undertakes to adapt Descartes to our 
taste by beginning every section with a whole series of 
definitions, axioms, and corollaries ; and then strides from 
one proposition to another in a strictly syllogistic path* 
And we blue-eyed, fair-haired, short-sighted, homines 
Europai> stand there gaping, and wonder at the clever, 
presumptuous Jew, and applaud him for his mishandling 
of a grand philosophy. 62 

Much might be added here, but it would take us too 
far away from our subject : against one thing I must 



384 BRUNO 

warn you : do not let yourselves be led away by the 
persistent preference for Spinoza of our professional 
philosophers. They are attracted by what is really his 
chief fault, the logically systematic tendency, the enemy 
of all living perception, arbitrarily destroying all the 
contradictions which truth offers. Only see how gloriously 
Descartes lives his life ! One day he hunts with Wallen- 
stein over the plains of Bohemia, the next day he writes 
a treatise on acoustics, the day after that a comedy, 
one day he constructs a telescope to search the depths of 
the heavens, the next day he dissects animals to fathom 
the secret of the circulation of the blood, the day after 
that he makes experiments upon the weight of air and 
refraction of light ; one day he discovers the aether, the 
second day analytical geometry, the third day the Scheme 
of bodies in motion. That is the life of lives, an unbroken 
intercourse between Man and Nature. The "noble" 
Baruch,* on the contrary, from cradle to grave sits in his 
little back room, thinks over what he has read in Descartes 
and Bruno, and out of it with incomparable cleverness 
weaves himself a web of syllogisms. The consequence is 
that nine-tenths of Descartes' services remain unnoticed 
by our philosophical schoolmen ; for they do not under- 
stand them, they do not belong to their department ; 
but the further disadvantage is that it leads to their 
seeing the remaining tenth in a wrong perspective, while no 
iota of Spinoza's lifework is lost by them. But we may 
draw this conclusion from it, that here we have before us 
a man of another race, a sort of Ideal-Rabbi, ea whereas 
all our own great thinkers, without exception, were men 
of action : Plato, Aristotle, Democritus, the Brahmans 
(who were forbidden to give themselves up entirely to 
meditation before they were grandfathers), Bruno, Leibniz, 
Bacon, Hume ; all of them work and build with eyes 
and hands, and are the lords, not the slaves, of Reason, 

* Benedict Spinoza. Benedict is the translation of Baruch. 



BRUNO 385 

Only a most superficial delusion could lead us astray 
about Kant in this respect : in his case too, natural science, 
geography, anthropology, politics, the art of war, were 
his chief daily food ; in his investigations of the mysteries 
of nature he was more like a Galilei than a Spinoza, and 
so brought to light more truth than incontrovertible 
systematics. 

But even within our group of nations we must know 
how to distinguish between men who develop a philos- 
ophy of their own, and those who, as so-called " philos- 
ophers/' only occupy themselves with the technicalities 
and history of thought ; to the latter our scheme is not 
to be applied. For instance, John Stuart Mill confesses 
in so many words that he always knew that as an 
" original thinker," that is as a creative thinker, he was 
scarcely endowed with the most modest gifts,and was 
only fitted for abstract science and for the critical 
analysis of the thoughts of others. He was over thirty 
years old, as he tells us, when for the first time in his 
life he began to understand that art and poetry are 
elements of culture ! This thoroughly noble and high- 
minded man was systematically brought up just as if 
the object were to make a blind man of him, and we 
now know precisely why, under such conditions, even 
the most gifted of men could by no possibility become 
an " original thinker." 64 

After these caveats against that which is physically 
and, therefore at the same time intellectually, foreign to 
ns, as well as against much that is really related to us, 
necessary to an understanding of the whole I 
fain add yet a few general remarks which may 
and sum up our schematic endeavours, 
be able clearly to grasp the fundamental 
'"ween the typical Thinker and the typical 
-npare the t#6 fellow-countrymen and 
Crates and Democritus, Socrates says, 



386 BRUNO 

in order to explain nature we must exclusively consult the 
principles of reason ; Democritus says, in order to explain 
reason we must exclusively consult what takes place in 
nature. 

There you have the principle. Now if you wish to see 
the two categories of men. at work, you have only to 
contrast Democritus as Seer, although his Seeing is 
directed inwards, with Aristotle as Thinker, although his 
Thinking is directed outwards : in Democritus all notions 
are simple, palpable, indestructible : empty space, the 
atoms, every perception of the senses a matter of touch 
all change a combination or a separation all that 
happens a necessity causes of motion the only ones, etc. 
Whatever form of abstraction plays a part in Democritus, 
it is still always an abstraction rooted in perception. In 
Aristotle, on the contrary, the notions are either so 
endlessly entangled (like that of the substances painfully 
derived from the motions of the stars), that no man on 
earth can grasp them ; or else they are so far removed 
from all perceptibility that nothing remains but almost 
bare logic, as, for example, in his supreme final aim, 
towards which everything strives, and the existence of 
which consists of pure Thinking, but not of a Thinking 
of thoughts even in that there would be too much 
colour but of a Thinking of Thinking : in the same 
way in his abstruse notions of possibility, reality, realisa- 
bility, etc. This is the distinction between the Seer and 
the Thinker. The following too is interesting : the Seer 
Democritus does not trouble himself as to whether 
Thinking can or cannot work with him : an empty space, 
an indivisible magnitude, a material spirit, are unthink- 
able : if a man imagines that he is thinking anything i 
all this, he deceives himself ; these are pure perceptic 
arising by analogy out of what man sees in nat 
namely out of the air-space, the diminutive particles, 
the animal world ; in the specific thinker, on the cent 




BRUNO 387 

reason is the autocrat (p. 330), and he would prefer to 
adopt a demonstrably false acceptation rather than an 
unthinkable one. In the construction of the inevitable 
equation between Thinking and Seeing, the observer of 
Nature is rather inclined to violate Thinking than Seeing : 
with the Thinker the reverse holds good ; so long as the 
matter has the ring of logic, for aught he cares it may 
in every other way be a nonentity. Violence is a matter 
of necessity to both : the reason has been shown in the 
former lecture. 

In the case just brought forward we contrasted the 
man whose Thinking is directed outwards with the man 
whose Seeing is directed inwards : the contrast of the 
Thinker inwards with the Seer outwards is even more 
paradoxical. 

The pure Thinkers, the men who, like Bruno, prize the 
dialectical proof of the eternity of the world higher than 
the witness of the telescope, and who would prefer to 
pass sleepless nights in order logically to arrive at a 
fraudulent conception of the existence of atoms, rather 
take advantage of this hypothesis of the atoms a 
working hypothesis in order to render some service to 
empirical science, these men have for the most part in 
spite of all a specially lively feeling for nature : they are 
enthusiastic about her, they are in love with her, they 
adore her. Of the mystics you know that full well ; but 
even Bruno, who cannot be numbered among the religious 
mystics, says of nature : 

Est animal sanctum^ sacrum et venerdbih^ 



With rapture these men drink in the world-picture in its 
great as well as in its small and smallest revelations. 
Plotinus makes a sophist enquire of nature why she 
works ? She answers, " because I am a nature that takes 
delight in seeing/' 66 Such men stand as it were upon a 
high mountain over against the visible worlcj, and gaze 



388 BRUNO 

and look upon it sometimes with extraordinary clearness. 
" The world is a universal figure of the intellect, a sym- 
bolical picture of the same," says one of them, Novalis : 67 
does not that remind us of the rising Sun of the Indians 
in the striking glory of which spiritual illumination was 
sure to be found ? That is why intelligences of that 
nature are often very precious for the recognition even 
of the outer world ; it is true that sometimes the re- 
ciprocal relations of the positions of things and their 
directions are interchanged, because they see everything 
in the camera obscura of their intellects ; still in that 
camera everything is rich in colour, sharply outlined, and 
intoxicated with truth like a dream., That accounts, for 
example, for the incredible intuition of the Cosmos with 
which Bruno not only left Copernicus behind him, but 
even overhauled Galilei and Kepler, who were born after 
him. Note well too that the extreme thinker sometimes 
sees the visible world better, and furnishes a truer picture 
of it than the investigator of nature, who, as every man 
who has passed the natural-science schools can bear 
witness, often sees nothing, nothing but his microscope, 
and his reagents, and formulae, and calculations and 
cramped theories. But how often the reverse takes 
place, how often, I mean, it happens that the man whose 
Seeing is directed outwards casts a penetrating glance 
into the inmost secrets of Thinking, is a matter which 
will not have escaped your observation* The antimystic 
intellect which starts boldly upon the conquest of Nature, 
sees itself soon compelled to reckon with a mightily dis- 
concerting adjunct, namely with the Ego, which, like 
the queue in Chamisso's Tragische Geschichte (tragic 
story) always hangs behind him, turn which way he will, 
Nolens vokns he must study metaphysics : in no other 
way can he reach the shore, or set quietly to work. And 
so we experience the marvellous fact that it is the oppo- 
nents of pure thought and of all scholastic philosophy 



BRUNO 389 

who cause our whole modern thought to bear fruit, and 
who act as its guides. Descartes feels a frank antipathy 
to all true philosophising : <c only very few hours in the 
year do I devote to questions of mere reason," he says of 
himself (IX, 132) ; he does it hastily and peevishly, just 
to be quit of it ; he consistently mistrusts the learned 
studies and exercises of the professional philosophers : 
le$ formes et syllogismes ne servent de rien pour decouvrir 
la verite des choses (XI, 294) ; the professors are, according 
to him, " in consequence of their philosophical studies less 
able to attain wholesome rational views, than they would 
be had they never busied themselves with such things." 
Again, " the less a man has learnt of so-called philosophy 
the fitter he is to understand the true philosophy" 
" the more pains he has taken in the old philosophy the 
less capable he will be as a rule to grasp truth." 68 The 
methods in which a Bruno revels, the atmosphere of 
abstraction and dialectics and hair-splitting which to this 
day surrounds all scholastic philosophy, are to him 
repulsive : nous ne reconnaissons aucun des fores philo- 
sophiques qui ne tombent pas rSettement sous ^imagination 
(XI, 399). Away with it all ! He will have none of it. 
What cannot be perceived is all a mere jingle of words ! 
A man like Descartes deals with metaphysics solely in 
order to get rid of them, solely in order not to become a 
metaphysician. And yet it is just he who gives a new 
direction to our metaphysics, he who has illuminated 
the problem of thought as deeply as Bruno, the dialec- 
tician, has illuminated the night of the Cosmos by which 
we are surrounded. 

So much for the pre-eminent Thinkers and Seers in 
contrast to one anothej. With reference to the manner 
in which the equation between Thinking and Seeing is 
carried out in every single brain, according to the com- 
bination which has the greater influence with it, I should 
like to call attention to what follows. 



390 BRUNO 

Actual formation always proceeds from the part which 
is directed outwards. That is why in cases where both 
parts are directed inwards there is a disintegration of all 
form. In Democritus, since he is a Seer, that happened 
concretely : he laid form in ruins and replaced it by the 
bodily conceived atoms : in Bruno, the Thinker, matters 
took an abstract course, he fused everything into a unity 
of which he had to admit non efigwrato nefigurabile, non 
e terminate ne terminabile ; non & forma perche non 
informa ne figura altro, etc. 69 Where, on the contrary, 
both parts are directed outwards we at once find an 
excessive demand for formation. The informing power 
of an Aristotle is at once magnificent and fatal : an 
uncertain outline is intolerable to him, a thing of which 
it could be said that non i terminate ne terminabile would 
in his view be a monster ; that is why he is the Lord of 
Schemes ; he gives form to the abstract, he schematises 
that which is capable of being known, and for that which 
may not be known he sets up Dogmas. Very similar is 
the way in which Descartes goes to work, only that in 
him it is Seeing that is preponderant, so that he finds 
himself face to face with problems of which Aristotle 
never suspected the existence : yet the principle is the 
same ; he is bound to take everything into his clutches, 
to give form to everything, from the relations between 
God and man, between expansion and thought, down to 
the shape of the particles of the aether, and the mechanism 
of the transmission of light. Such men really produce 
panoramic pictures, since their power of informing 
embraces both worlds. On the other hand, it is character- 
istic, of Newton and of the investigators who rally round 
him, that although they pride themselves upon setting 
to work on strictly empirical principles, it is Thinking 
alone which has an informing influence, because thought 
alone is in them directed outwards ; whereas their Seeing 
being directed inwards is blind to form ; for which reason 



BRUNO 391 

our exact science according to them might be called the 
formation in thought of that which is to the eye formless. 
It is a question of Thinking of phenomena, not a true 
Seeing of phenomena. It observes much, but only with 
the help of instruments which Thinking, so far as human 
power goes, has invented, and only by taking for its 
foundation theories which have the property of at once 
transforming into thoughts all that is seen. It begins by 
taking the phenomenon to pieces, and then builds it up 
again into thoughts. That is what in a former lecture 
(p. 180) justified us in describing science as systematic 
anthropomorphism. How ridiculous is the often repeated 
assertion that our ancestors were " simple anthropo- 
morphists " : the man who looks out upon free nature, 
and feels himself at one with her, only think of Homer ! 
is far less of an anthropomorphist than the man who talks 
himself into the belief that colour is the duration of 
oscillations. Yet this criticism, however justifiable, must 
not be allowed to shut us out from the recognition of the 
fact that no intellectual disposition is so powerful as this 
forcible packing of man into the central domain, as far 
removed from pure nature as from the pure Ego, where 
every thought is concrete and every perception is abstract. 
The most exact contrast to this is afforded by Goethe, in 
whom the informing principle, inasmuch as his Thinking is 
directed inwards, is rooted in the Seeing which is directed 
outwards : hence the special impulse and power of pro- 
jecting outwards into the world of the eye ideas to which 
a dear shape has been given. Since ideas apparently 
arise in our reason out of a reflection of nature, thanks 
to the energies of reason from which there is no escape, 
ever striving to introduce " unity into the special recog- 
nitions, 1 ' as Kant says, that is to say, unity into the 
manifold, it is evident that it is precisely a Thinking 
inwards which always strives for unity, combined with 
Seeing outwards which dearly perceives the manifold, 



392 BRUNO 

which must lead to working with ideas. If we were to 
take up again the conflict between Idea and Experience, 
between Goethe and Schiller, we should arrive at much 
more exact results. In Schopenhauer the matter presents 
itself somewhat differently from what it does in Goethe, 
because the former starts from the standpoint of abstract 
thought ; whereas in Goethe thought reflects nature as 
perceived, in Schopenhauer it is nature that reflects 
thought. But this relationship works wonders for the 
communication of thoughts, born in the very darkest 
depths of a reason half unconscious because unimaged, 
and entirely barren of form : and if Schopenhauer's idea 
of the Will never becomes really capable of being grasped, 
but rather lies like a shadowed image upon things, he 
finds himself much in the same position as Goethe with 
his metamorphosis, which also floats hither and thither 
between perception and thoughts. In contrast to the 
Newtonian principle which embodies all nature in the 
human intellect, this principle has the tendency to 
expand the human intellect over all nature. Herein are 
rooted both the sympathy and the antagonism of the 
two aims ; a Goethe and a Schopenhauer feel themselves 
to be passionately attracted and as passionately repelled 
by empirical science ; they are in just the same position 
with regard to abstract science. But we who in con- 
sidering the subject desire to take a bird's-eye view of 
all parties, recognise in both feelings, in that of love 
and in that of hatred, the symptoms of a certain un- 
deniable relationship between the Goethe group and the 
Newton group Us extremes $e touchent while the 
Aristotle-Descartes tendency, and the Bruno-Democritus 
tendency, lie apart from both, and in their turn are 
interrelated to one another. A certain inclination of the 
Goethe group towards the Bruno group, and of the Newton 
group towards the Descartes group, need not mislead us, 
for it never amounts to more than a half agreement. 



BRUNO 393 

This last remark is very important for the disentangle- 
ment of the manifold philosophical systems whicl> cross 
one another. In connection with our lecture of to-day it 
leads us to a lesson which will furnish an important con- 
clusion to this excursus, a lesson upon the origin of our 
mythical ideas. 

We know that myths arise everywhere in the equation 
between Thinking and Being, since only the rainbow 
bridge born of phantasy pregnant with dreams is able to 
unite the two shores : but now that our sight has been 
sharpened by thorough dissection, we observe that this 
structure of myths embarks upon very different ways in 
the four chief tendencies which must be distinguished in 
the human intellect. In regard to the discovery of new 
myths only those tendencies have any power in which 
Seeing and Thinking are either both directed outwards, 
or both directed inwards : the two other tendencies 
shown in our diagram, Thinking inwards, Seeing outwards, 
Thinking outwards, Seeing inwards, are certainly as 
regards a fully harmonious, satisfying, and therefore 
lasting power of informing, superior to the others ; some 
are most apt for producing ideal, others mathematical 
structures ; but so far as true invention is concerned 
they are weak. A single glance at our general survey 
scheme (on p, 352) will suffice to convince you on this 
point. You perceive there the two great primitive myths 
of Thinking, Monism and Pluralism, and the two great 
primitive myths of Seeing, Atomism and Organism; 
from these fundamental perceptions you see the resulting 
main doctrines of the universal endowment of soul, of 
the dualism of body and soul, of the mechanical move- 
ment of pressure and impulse, of the dynamic movement 
which is the result of form ; and now pray consider by 
whom these myths were discovered. Exclusively by 
men who belonged to the Aristotelian or the Bruno 
group* Monism and atomism both came to us from 



394 BRUNO 

India, the land of those in whom Thinking and Seeing 
are directed entirely inwards : for pluralism and organism 
our thanks are in the first place due to the Greeks, to the 
people in whom Seeing and Thinking were directed out- 
wards. This also holds good of the further systematic 
development : without Bruno, Aristotle, Democritus, 
Descartes, we should not possess the same clear view of 
these conceptions, and these men all represent intellects 
energetically directed either inwards or outwards. On 
the other hand, the two other groups gain the mastery 
of these myths, and by uniting things which originally 
had no connection with one another, obtain possession 
of, as it were, a rich building material with which they 
are able to erect the boldest and most ingenious structures. 
But for that reason, I mean because in such cases we 
cannot see the origin of these myths but only their 
application, we often fail to observe the source of the 
myth. Nothing has ever made so much use of myths as 
our modern natural science : even the religions are 
modest in comparison : unconcerned about origin and 
connection, it throws all dreams into the common stock, 
so long as they help notions and thought : the atoms and 
empty space must make common cause with the space- 
filling aether and the dynamic first principles : in practice 
the investigator, without exception, gives the dominant 
power to the dualistic notion of power and matter; in 
theory he preaches monism. We see the same thing, but 
less clearly exposed to view, in the Goethe group. Thus 
it is the special characteristic of Schopenhauer's system 
to be at the same time dogmatic monism and dogmatic 
dualism : and by this I do not wish to reproach this 
grandly consistent thinker with inconsistency and to 
hold up before him the usual bugbear of the profession 
the so-called contradictions but I only desire to call 
attention to the fact that he would not have been able to 
construct his own world of thought, and to furnish it with 



BRUNO 395 

such fabulously plastic beauty, without these myths 
proceeding from two violently opposed methods of 
perception. Goethe does precisely the same with organi- 
cism and atomism ; his perception of nature glitters in 
both colours. He so entirely absorbed the notion of 
organisation that he taught that we must recognise in 
the whole world of organisms one single interdependency 
of multitudinous components, and he premises that 
" we must ultimately look upon the whole animal world 
only as one great element, where one race either springs 
or maintains itself out of or upon the other " : at the 
same time he makes use of the opposite notion of the 
monads, that is to say, of organic atoms, and defines life 
purely mechanically as the " circular motion of the 
monads round themselves." 70 And that which, in such 
passages, can be proved incontrovertibly penetrates him 
through and through in every single particular. You 
will remember how our study of Goethe's doctrine of 
metamorphosis showed us the simultaneous and the 
consequent, rest and motion, unity and plurality repre- 
sented together : that all proceeds from the fact that a 
man whose being is at the same time directed inwards 
and outwards attracts to his philosophy twofold myths, 
twofold equations between Thinking and Seeing. Just 
as the investigators of nature derive more power from 
the possession of two-sided capacities, so do men like 
Goethe and Schopenhauer gain more subtleness and 
appropriate ideas in what they prescribe by means of the 
richness and variety of the mythic element, than falls to 
the lot of the men of the two groups whose minds are 
directed to one side only. Still I repeat it only those, 
men whose direction is entirely inwards or entirely out- 
wards are the discoverers of myths, and even a Goethe 
could only set up the idea of metamorphosis, because the 
very word itself and the image of the metamorphosis, as 
well as the scientific fact of comparative anatomy, were 



396 BRUNO 

at his hand, and so only the idea, qu, idea, had to master 
them ; on the other hand, he never succeeded in reducing 
to a comprehensible image the idea which led him on for 
forty years in his studies of the doctrine of colour, and 
so the aim which he had in view remains unknown, and 
the world only recognises the abstract word " doctrine 
of colour." There was no lack of the power of giving 
form, but only a lack of the bold masterfulness which 
is the characteristic of a true framer of myths. 

How much might be added to this ! but I have already 
spent more time over this excursus than I can really 
justify : I shall be pleased if it has awakened some of the 
interest which emanates from the subject. Let me in 
conclusion remind you of that wonderful verse in the 
Kdthaka Upanishad 

There is one eternal Thinker thinking non-eternal Thoughts. 71 

We children of the world of the twentieth century are 
inclined to reverse the saying of the sage, and say, 
" There are many non-eternal thinkers thinking eternal 
thoughts/' Special intellectual and sentimental dis- 
positions of distinct racial combinations, climatic and 
social surroundings, the specially crystallised forms of 
former religions, and specially the condition of positive 
science upon which depends in the first place the mode 
of interchange between Nature and the Ego, all this, 
and more besidefe, is the reason why the same notions 
are continually coming to light in new and redecorated 
shapes : and this very novelty is a matter of congratula- 
tion, for it is just that which gives colour to life ; yet we 
must bear in mind that in the realm of thought, as in the 
realm of creation, that which may be called development, 
that which alone seemed of any value to a Hegel and a 
Darwin, is a mere superficial appearance, in a great 
measure the craze of short-lived men ; the foundation is 
that which is eternal, steadfast, immovable. If you have 



BRUNO 397 

grasped these remarks about the " eternal thoughts/' 
not in the misleading simplification of everything that is 
merely thought, but with the rich many-sidedness of true 
perception which comprehends all that is complementary, 
contradictory and supralogical, then you are in posses- 
sion of the first elements out of which there results an 
understanding of our whole Indo-European philosophy 
from the Rig-Veda to the present day. 

And now that we have not only cleared the way for 
our work upon the difference between criticism and 
dogma, but have also travelled over a great part of the 
road, we may draw a line and proceed to the contrast 
between our two Heroes, the dogmatist Bruno and the 
critic Kant. 

You will, no doubt, have noticed that in this excursus 
upon the history of philosophy there are two great philos- 
ophers whom I have not named, Plato and Kant. It 
must not be supposed on that account that these thinkers 
could not with full confidence be included in our Scheme ; 
but they stand on a higher stage of circumspection than all 
the other philosophers : in virtue of that they as it were 
grow outside the bounds of personality, and so instead 
of the usual human superficial portrait there arises a 
perfectly plastic, outstanding form, which we can see all 
round and view from various sides, and in various, 
symmetrical and yet essentially different aspects, and 
that because these men themselves possessed the power 
to conquer the inborn preponderating influence of an 
intellectual capacity which tolerates only one direction, 
to break up the matrix in which every man is cast by 
nature, and so to set themselves free from their congealing 
surroundings. In this relation, that is to say in regard 
to personal intellectual freedom, Aristotle is just as great 
a falling off after Plato as Hegel is after Kant. The 
successors of such men as these, supposed to be carrying 
on and amplifying their work, have just the effect of 



398 BRUNO 

veiling that which is incomparable in their personality, 
and so hide them from our eyes. All the material of life 
which we find in Aristotle as philosophical thinker is 
derived from Plato, that is admitted by every com- 
petent historian : but the true Plato fades away under 
his hands ; the same has taken place in Kant's case 
through Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, and do not let your 
admiration blind you to the fact through Schopenhauer ; 
every one of them lays hold of the side view that suits 
him, and works it up to a new superficial portrait. It 
would be an easy matter, without more ado, to fit these 
superficial portraits into our scheme ; but the man who 
recognises what is unique in these two men, Plato and 
Kant, who can absolutely only be compared with one 
another, will not be in too great a hurry to go to work. 
Kant, for instance, is at the same time mechanist and 
dynamist, atomist and organisist, 72 not materially as 
in the case of the investigators of nature who directly 
place contradictory notions side by side (p, 393 scq,) t but 
because all these conceptions in the presence of the 
highest order of critical deliberation lose their absolute 
significance. It needs, therefore, a more exact critical 
reflection to distinguish the physical capacity, so to 
speak, from the plastically many-sided conviction which 
is arrived at by the most deliberate freedom of judgment. 
In the interest of clearness I will say at once that Plato, 
as well as Kant, naturally belongs to the Goethe-Schopen- 
hauer group, Thinking inwards, Seeing outwards, yet it 
is only by degrees in the course of the exegeses which are 
to follow that you will understand exactly what is the 
meaning of this and of the premised remarks. With 
Plato we shall occupy ourselves in the next lecture ; 
to-day we will hold fast to Bruno in order to arrive at an 
explanation, however cursory, of a difficult because fully 
plastic subject. 
Unfortunately at the outset prejudice again hinders 



BRUNO 399 

our work of comparison : for we are wont to form 
a false conception of Bruno as well as of Kant. 
Bruno is, indeed, not the herald of a new science, the 
martyr of enlightenment, as he is usually represented, 
but rather is he through and through a schoolman : 
while Kant, far from being the abstruse philosophical 
professor dragging himself painfully over dialectic pins- 
heads to an incomprehensibly abstract " Thing in itself/' 
is rather a man who is all perception, all observation, all 
investigator of nature, with the proviso that his Seeing 
is pre-eminently directed upon the Ego, his observation 
upon the dissection of the soul's life, his investigation 
upon the inner being of man. Bruno's philosophy indeed 
is quite abstract ; it knows nothing of the observation of 
nature, inner or outer, its arguments are exclusively 
dialectical : Kant's aim, on the contrary, is from the 
outset to borrow a phrase often used by him the 
setting free from " sophistry and super-sophistry." 
Bruno is the typical bookworm and schoolman, who has 
at his finger-ends all the authorities for and against 
every argument, and whose memory in quotation is so 
fabulous that his contemporaries looked upon it as magic, 
whereas Kant, on the contrary, seldom, and only in 
passing, names any philosopher. Of the dialecticians of 
Bruno's nature, Kant says, " the athletics of the learned 
are an art, which may in some ways be very useful, but 
which adds little to the advantage of truth"; 73 and 
when some one applied the word " dialectics " to his 
Critique of Pure Reason, he answered indignantly, " and 
yet my critical endeavours are all directed to setting free 
and destroying for ever the inevitable dialectics with 
which pure reason, everywhere else carried out dogmati- 
cally, is caught and entangled in its own net," 74 

You see what contrasts face one another here. But 
there might be much more to be said yet. For the Bruno 
that you find everywhere, the Bruno whom our journalists 



4 oo BRUNO 

of antichristian tendencies believe to be inspiring them, 

the Bruno whom the apostles of progress hail as the 

" morning star of the religion of science," the Bruno to 

whom a statue has been erected in Rome, and whom the 

Papists full of hatred would fain have called to life again 

for the sheer pleasure of burning him once more, and 

more thoroughly that universally known, conventional 

Bruno has not much more than the name in common 

with the real man. And the other Bruno likewise, whom 

Eugen Diihring and his disciple Heinrich von Stein have 

given us, the man of phantasy and the poet, is rather 

the creature of their own phantasy and poetry than of 

an objective appreciation of the forerunner of Spinoza 

and Schelling, It is impossible for me to go more deeply 

into this ; but if you wish to know Bruno's methods in 

philosophy, open his Latin writings where you will ; or if 

that should seem too hard a task, see in his Italian writings, 

which are relatively less scholastic, the analysis of truth 

at the beginning of the second dialogue of the Spaccio 

delta bestia trionfante. 1 * 5 After this test you will easily 

understand that for this man Logic must be the science 

of all sciences, in brief, the modus sciendi, and that there 

were only three educational subjects which floated before 

him as the ideals of culture Grammar, for the concipere, 

Rhetoric, for the enuntiare, and Dialectics, for the 

argwmentari. 1 * But time presses, and of much that I 

would fain have said upon this subject I will briefly 

mention only one thing, because it belongs indirectly to 

our Theme. You must not imagine that Bruno's 

enthusiasm for the Copernican cosmology was the result 

of industrious astronomical observations, or in any way 

of a penetrating insight into truth, such as we admire in 

Leonardo who lived a hundred years before Bruno ; the 

boundlessness of space belonged rather to the logical 

postulates of reason, which Bruno defended against 

Aristotle with arguments like the following : Since the 



BRUNO 401 

human phantasy cannot conceive an end, nature must 
be boundless, otherwise it could not comprehend this 
phantasy ! 77 and for that reason Copernicus is so passion- 
ately welcomed by Bruno, he is so true, so victorious 
because this postulate of reason, taken from the neo- 
Platonists, at once obtains a practical footing. For 
Galilei the achievement of Copernicus means the liberation 
of the intellect for the building up of a new system of 
mechanics and cosmology ; for Bruno it means the 
materialising of an abstract thought, and at the same time 
the victory of the principle of the setting free of all form 
which he championed against the principle defended by 
Aristotle of form as organising everything. 

And now, as a complement to what has gone before, 
let me add to these few words about Bruno an equally 
hurried notice of Kant's relation to the wisdom of the 
schools. 

Kant's comparatively scant attention to the writings 
of the philosophers has already struck more than one 
enquirer. In the whole Critique of Pure Reason hardly 
twenty names are mentioned, and these for the most 
part cursorily. Only Plato, Hume, and Leibniz are once 
or twice noticed rather more at length : in the Critique of 
the Power of Judgment not ten Philosophers are alluded 
to, and most of them only once in a single sentence. 78 
It is, moreover, specially significant that Kant only 
refers to the most important thinkers of mankind, the 
others he passes over. " The learned multitude knows 
nothing, understands nothing, but it talks of everything 
and prides itself on what it says " that is Kant's 
opinion. 79 Bruno, on the contrary, assures us that he 
loves the works of Thomas Aquinas " like his own soul/' 80 
he knows by heart every schoolman of ancient and 
modern times, and does not disdain to quote as authorities 
the muddiest apocryphal sources of mystical bogus 
philosophy and theological sophistry an Apollonius, a 



402 BRUNO 

Hermes Trismegistus, and gives up half his life to the 
Spanish mountebank and conjurer Ramon Lull who pro- 
fessed to arrive at knowledge by the help of revolving discs, 
and extols him as omniscium propemodumque diviwum, 
omniscient and almost divine. Kant, however, tells us 
that he looks upon the voluminous elucubrations of the 
professional philosophers " with repugnance, with a certain 
hatred " (Letters, 8, 4, 66) ; and his amanuensis for many 
years, Jachmann, reports that " Kant found everything in 
himself, and so lost the capacity for finding anything in 
others. At the very moment of the fullest ripeness and 
power of his intellect, when he was working up critical 
philosophy, nothing was more difficult to him than to 
think himself into the system of another. Even the writings 
o his adversaries he could only grasp with the utmost pains, 
because it was impossible to him even for a while to dis- 
tract himself from his original system of thought/' 81 Jach- 
tnann's commentary is a little shaky, but his ingenuous, 
honest testimony is all the more valuable. Kant was 
simply never at any time of his life able to take an interest 
in the peculiar philosophy of the schools. He who in his 
most advanced old age read every book of travels, he who 
followed all that concerned natural science with the most 
enthusiastic attention, could only read the writings of 
his learned brother professors " with the utmost pains, 11 
and since, when every now and again he did take these 
" utmost pains," he still had not the power to find any* 
thing in these works, he preferred to leave them unread. 
There is no need to make any excuses for him. If there 
were a Kant to-day he would do the same. But we learn 
here how little justification there is for reckoning Kant 
straight away among the scholastic philosophers : it sets 
aside the whole picture of his intellectual personality. It 
is only the man who looks upon Kant from the right point 
of view, who can understand why to the end of his life 
he felt compelled to take the field against the professional 



BRUNO 403 

philosophers who were already beginning to introduce 
their own vagaries into his critical philosophy, against 
" the metaphysics of the schools which tear reason to 
tatters," and against the university professors whose 
chief business it is " industriously to convert the simplest 
thing in the world into the most difficult " : in opposition 
to all these fruitless subtleties, Kant maintains that his 
philosophy " can be understood from the standpoint of 
the common understanding," and only exacts that this 
common understanding shall " cultivate itself adequately" 
to the business of Criticism. Kant looks upon the meta- 
physical analysis of our thought as a fundamental 
cultural exercise of the most universal importance, 
" indispensable to all future times for the highest aims 
of mankind," which means in contradistinction to its 
being regarded as mere abstruse, learned, professional 
discipline. 82 Hence his assertion that " the practical 
philosopher is the true philosopher" (Logic, III) hence 
the touching appeal in the middle of the Critique of Pure 
Reason to "those who have philosophy at heart, which 
is oftener said than met with" (p. 376). 

What I have specified here upon the subject of Kant's 
relation to the schoolmen is at the same time a symptom 
of a more deeply ingrained peculiarity of his personality, 
namely of the stress which it laid upon the necessity of 
perception. Until a man has recognised this he knows 
nothing of Kant. On one occasion he talks of a drop of 
water and of its swarming life of minute creatures, and then 
goes on : "if from that I lift my eyes to heaven in order 
to see the immeasurable space teeming with worlds like 
grains of dust, no human speech can express the feeling 
which such a thought arouses, and all subtle metaphysical 
dissection is far removed from the sublimity and dignity 
which belongs to such a perception." 88 This sublimity 
and dignity of the perception is the scarlet clue which, 
threaded through his whole life-work, was the only thing 



404 BRUNO 

which enabled him, the only thing which enables us 
also to find a safe path through the stifling world of 
thought. In the same way in the realm of practical 
philosophy, which, as I said just now, Kant had chiefly 
at heart, and in which his theoretical abstraction was 
often cast in his teeth, with reckless vehemence by 
Schopenhauer for instance, he teaches us that " Good- 
ness has an irresistible power, when it is perceived/' 84 
Where Kant is very hard to understand is not really, as is 
the case with other philosophers, because the abstraction 
becomes two subtle for it to be possible to fasten any 
notion upon it, but, on the contrary, because though he 
sees with the utmost perspicacity (with that perspicacity 
to which I alluded in the first lecture) the relations of the 
human intellect, no means exist of communicating this 
perception except by a whole ponderous structure of 
abstraction piled upon abstraction. Hence the many 
repetitions which are characteristic of Kant's writings 
and often lead a beginner astray ; for he thinks to him- 
self, Here is something new, whereas Kant is for ever 
labouring to communicate the same perceptible know- 
ledge by means of new thoughts and new words until we 
become familiar with it and see it, instead of merely 
thinking it. So far as I am aware, no teacher of philos- 
ophy has called attention to this fundamental fact 
which is so conclusive for the apprehension of Kant's 
style. Every man who has had the advantage of a certain 
technical training can understand purely logical com- 
binations of thought, and can, if he so desires, himself 
explain them ; but the previous lecture will have shown 
you how monstrously difficult it is to communicate a 
conviction arrived at by the loftiest power of conception, 
that the elementary conceptions of understanding, the 
primitive forms of all judgment, can only be distinguished 
from the side of perception, but are incapable of being 
defined by words and for the very reason that they are 



BRUNO 405 

themselves the primitive conceptions (p. 295). Equally 
difficult is the communication of Kant's conception of 
freedom. Here the direct inner experience of every 
individual must be revealed in connection with the 
inexorable all-uniting sum-total of Nature ; but the 
language of logic fails, for such an insight oversteps the 
boundaries of its competence. So it is with the " Thing 
in itself," with the ideality of time and space, with the 
representation of God as " the regulating principle of 
reason/' and so forth. This is no mystical enlightenment, 
no " intellectual perception," as Hegel calls it, no " super- 
sensual perception," as Schilling says. Kant loathes all 
such conceptions. " I ask for your opinion, but as far as 
possible in human language. For I, poor son of earth, 
am in no way organised for the divine language of per- 
ceptive reason. That which may be spelt out for me 
according to the rules of logic out of common conceptions, 
that is well within my reach." So wrote Kant to Hamann 
(6. 4, 1774). Far rather, as I have said, does the difficulty 
lie in the fact that our words in the first place refer to con- 
ceptions, and that conceptions can only indirectly awaken 
perceptions. A whole book upon the colour white and 
its properties does not tell me what white is : in order to 
experience it I must of>en my eyes and look upon white : 
that is the example which Descartes uses : it is the same 
with the facts which Kant saw in the inner man ; until 
we have seen them ourselves it is not only difficult but 
impossible to understand Kant. So it follows that who- 
ever has only grasped the word, not the perception, in 
Kant, only the logical structure without the facts which 
led to it, has gained little or nothing. 85 You, gentlemen, 
will in future know exactly what it means when of those 
who wish to work at philosophy, as a foundation, Kant 
requires not in the first place logical and dialectical studies 
nor historical knowledge, but " exercises in the judgment 
of experience," and " attention to the compared sensa- 



406 BRUNO 

tions of the senses," in other words, a schooling in Seeing 
inwards and outwards. 86 And you will understand why 
Kant warns us against the " teaching of the philosophers " 
and against " definitions which are so often misleading/' 
whereas " the true method of metaphysics is in principle 
one and the same with that which Newton introduced 
into natural science/' that is to say, the method of " sure 
experiences/' which here certainly means " inner experi- 
ence," yet none the less experience " directly visible to 
the eyes/' 87 I also think that you will now begin to 
understand why we may, and indeed must, say of this 
man that his Seeing, like that of Aristotle, Descartes, 
and Goethe, was directed outwards and not inwards ; 
while his Thinking was directed entirely inwards, and so 
overwhelmingly, so intricately complicated, that his 
physical eyes had little power left to look out upon the 
world. Even in the darkest depths of the inner man 
what he saw was everywhere organisation. You will 
also understand what is meant when Kant in a posthumous 
fragment asserts, " I am myself by inclination an in- 
vestigator/' 88 and when he writes to the anatomist 
Sommerring, and says, that just as Sommerring busies 
himself with the dissection of what is visible in man, so 
he, Kant, busies himself with the dissection of what is 
invisible in man. It is certainly important for the 
knowledge of Kant's personality to remember that of 
Kant's sixty-five works, almost one-half, namely twenty- 
nine, have no philosophical purport, and that in the 
period of his progressive development up to his fortieth 
year, he only published six works dealing with meta- 
physical subjects, as against thirteen upon physics, 
mathematics, geognosis, meteorology, astronomy and 
anthropology* Here you have the diametrical opposite 
to Bruno, in whom the most glorious of all objects of 
perception, the boundless heaven of staxs, only serves 
for a logically dialectical system of thoughts, whereas in 



BRUNO 407 

Kant it is the thoughts themselves that rest upon per- 
ception, and for that very reason struggle painfully for 
conceptive expression. 89 

With this is connected Kant's strict delimitation of 
the significance of his logic, Bruno, as you have already 
heard, held it to be the science of all sciences, the true 
fountain-head of recognition. His ideal of absolute 
recognition is that which reason, purified of all contact 
with the world of sense (intellects purus), perceives by 
mere introspection, that is looking into itself, omnia in 
$e ipso videndo, whereas it sees nothing outside of itself 
(non extra se speculando). 9 * And if he ascribes such a 
fully pure recognition to God alone, that has no great 
significance, since in principle Bruno recognises only one 
all-embracing monad into which every intelligence 
crosses over by stages, and so is essentially related to it, 91 
Thus it comes to pass that in the end the definition of 
truth is " the law of intelligence reflected in things," 
veritas e$t ipsa lex intelligentia observata in rebus. 92 The 
same principle emboldened Hegel to utter the monstrous 
definition, " Logic is the science of God," As against 
this Kaat has shown once for all that logic is only a formal 
science, touching those combinations of conceptions 
which, in the previous lecture, have been shown as 
a necessary function of the human intellect. " But," as 
he says, " since the mere form of recognition, however 
much it may agree with logical laws, is still far from 
adequate on that account to determine the material 
(objective) truth of recognition, it follows that no one 
can dare to form judgments upon subjects with the help 
of logic alone, or to assert anything without having 
previously made fundamental enquiries outside of 
logic, in order afterwards to attempt their utilisation 
and combination in a consistent whole according 
to the laws of logic/' To take a practical perceptible 
image. With the help of crucibles, hammers and files 



408 BRUNO 

man can at will manufacture for himself golden orna- 
ments ; but the gold itself is produced outside in nature, 
and is brought to the light of day with axe and spade. 
And so Kant goes on to write, " now we may take it as a 
sure and useful warning : that universal logic looked 
upon as organon is always a logic of appearances (dialectic). 
For since it teaches us nothing about the contents of 
recognition, but only the formal conditions of agreement 
with the understanding, which moreover are quite im- 
material in view of the objects ; so the demand to use 
them as our tools in order to widen and extend our know- 
ledge, at any rate so far as profession is concerned, can 
end in nothing but idle chatter in order to assert or to 
attack whatever we please with a certain show/' 

You see how clearly and sharply Kant distinguishes 
himself from all the schoolmen, from all the rationalists 
in the true sense of the word, from Socrates, Bruno, Hegel, 
how differently from these men he sees and judges the 
importance and limitations of human reason. Never 
again will you be led on account of a certain apparent 
similarity of language to associate him with those philos- 
ophers from whom he really differs entirely in his whole 
manner of Seeing, his principles, his methods and his 
aim. 

I have said thus much as a preliminary orientation of 
Kant's position as contrasted with that of Bruno, in 
order to arrive at a more correct view of it than that 
which commonly obtains. We will now take a cursory 
view of Bruno's philosophy in its principal outlines in 
order to reach a further stage in our knowledge of 
Kant's personality. 

We must not believe that Bruno was a specially 
inventive genius. Almost all his doctrines were taken 
directly from the German Nikolaus Krebs of Kues on the 
Moselle, better known under the romanised name of 
Cardinal Cusa, amongst them those of the boundlessness 



BRUNO 409 

of space and the numberless inhabited worlds, as well as 
the other doctrine of the finality of divisibility the atoms, 
and that of the philosophical significance of numbers, 
of the stage ladder of things and beings, of the identity 
of contradictions, of complication (for thought) and 
explication (for matter)* and so forth. Even that per- 
ception which is the most original of all his notions, the 
doctrine of monads, is an old possession of the neo- 
Platonists, and the very saying that God is " the monad 
of monads " (monadum monas) occurs in Synesius of 
Cyrene a thousand years before Bruno. 98 

At bottom the philosophy of Bruno is simple, grievously 
simple ; there is one single thought which ever and again 
arises on all sides, that of the pantheism. We might, 
indeed at least if we desired to borrow logical consistency 
from the Panlogicians make no distinction between 
Nature and the Ego, and between both those and God. 
I have already quoted the saying that " Nature is God in 
Things " ; in the same way the Ego is fused with* God and 
with Nature ; as God is the Nature of Nature, so he is 
also the Ego of the Ego, " the Soul of Souls, the Life of 
Lives ; more intimate, nearer, more closely related to 
us than we can be to ourselves " ; and is it not the last 
conclusion of wisdom that there is " only one Being, one 
single and identical Thing " ? 94 What we could distin- 
guish as God, world, and Ego, is only a species of motion 
or pulsation inside the one universal spirit ; from God 
down to Nature and to the Ego, ascending again from 
the Ego to God through Nature. Influii Deus per 
naturam in rationem; ratio attollitur per naturam in 
Deum?* In strictness we ought to say that there is only 
one unity without distinction ; we might call the Divinity 
absolute unity without any sort of formation, unitd 

* Terms for which Cardinal Cusa is responsible. The idea is that thought 
arises from folding down and inwardly matter arises more and more from 
unfolding. 



4io BRUNO 

assoluta senza spezie alchuna ; but we may leave out the 
conception " God/' and say Nature is the All, and is its own 
creator natura ipsa est fabrif actor (De. imm. viii. 10, n) ; 
or again we need speak of neither God nor of Nature, but 
only accept the immovable boundlessness of the universe 
infinite immobile in which there are no distinctions, where 
the mathematical point is the same as the whole body, the 
centre the same as the circle, the limited the same as the 
unlimited, the great as the small, the whole as the part, 
light as darkness, hatred as love, the formless as that 
which has form ; here then there exists no difference 
between a man and an ant, between an ant and the sun ; 
the soul of a flower, of an oyster, of a fly, of a man, are 
of a similar entity in species and genus. 96 In this God- 
Cosmos-Ego, the boundary is at thesame timeno boundary, 
form no form, matter no matter, soul no soul, and even 
error is " latent truth " ; for everything is at once every- 
thing, without distinction, since everything is only one 
single unity ; 97 here one name is sufficient to comprise 
everything ; here there is only one reason which thinks, 
only one will which desires. 98 Contradictions viewed 
from this standpoint there are none, they are rather fused 
together like twins : qu& in $e ipsis diversa sunt atque 
confraria in ip$o simplicissimo principio sunt unum ct 
idem ;" indeed, all things are made up of apparent contra* 
dictions, tutte le cose constano de contrarii ; 100 but for the 
man who is gifted with recognition distinctions are wiped 
out, they coalesce in the coinciAentia oppositorum. If the 
One Undifferentiated unfolds itself as it were, then there 
arises the All with its unnumbered creations ; if the All 
folds itself together, then the Undifferentiated One arises 
once more. 101 Thus the birth of a thing is the expansion 
of a centre which is imperceptible and only to be grasped 
by our thoughts ; its existence is the lasting duration of 
the sphere so born ; its death is its shrinking together to 
the original centre. 10 * 



BRUNO 411 

One remark in passing. This doctrine of the Universal 
Unity is as old as the Indo-European race, and therefore 
really worthy of respect. But it is only to be found in 
perfect purity, and therefore also really intelligible and 
sympathetic, among the Brahmans, less satisfying and 
yet always beautiful, sometimes even enchanting, among 
our European mystics. In order to be capable of accepta- 
tion it needs must stand upon a religious foundation : 
the religious myth then surrounds it with images, and 
the moral aim of a practical union of man with God lends 
it an august dignity. Where, on the contrary, as to a 
certain extent in Plotinus, and more outspokenly in 
Bruno, it presents itself not supralogically, but rational- 
istically, not as a suggestion but as argument, where it 
aims not at the intensive raising of the individual, but at 
the irrefutable dialectical proof of empirical truths, 
there the doctrine of the universal unity becomes frankly 
intolerable. For the sake of a miserable logical trick it 
annihilates form, personality, analytical science. That 
such things should again be stirring among us, befooling 
weak brains, is very lamentable. In religion mysticism 
is indispensable, for it is through mysticism that the 
myth first becomes living experience : in philosophy it 
is poison. 

Without going any further into principles, I may here 
call attention to the fact that the weakest point in 
Bruno's philosophy is the scanty stress which he lays 
upon the Ego, For it is only from the point of view of 
absolute subjectivity that the doctrine of Universal Unity 
possesses any real justification. The Brahmans taught that 
" there is no possible proof of the existence of a dualism, 
and the Atman (the self) devoid of all dualism is alone 
capable of proof/'* 08 and even the man who takes his 
stand upon the flattest empirical science is not in a 
position compulsively to prove the contrary. But upon 
this there follows at once, " Here, in the depths of the 



412 BRUNO 

heart, .lies the Lord of the universe/' and " our soul is this 
world/' 104 God and the world united in the Ego and 
overflowing the one into the other : that is a consistent 
standpoint, and inasmuch as it rests upon secure facts, 
even though they should be grasped one-sidedly, it is rich 
in results. Whereas when definition and argument put 
God and nature on a level, only dragging in the Ego in 
an inferior character as " reason " or " thinking substance," 
as of a wavering essence which everywhere stands in the 
way, and of which therefore the less said the better, the 
perception is obviously one whose roots do not go very 
deep ; for whence do all these arguments come if not 
from the Ego ? Bruno stands precisely where the priests 
stand : but the latter have dogma for their foundation 
and practical reliability as their aim, whereas the man 
who goes to work in the same way in a subjectively- 
rationistic manner, but who replaces the dogma of 
faith by the dogma of reason, and takes for his aim the 
recognition of absolute truth, is hovering in mid-air. 
In the one case, that of the true mystics, we have an ex- 
perience that has been lived, in the other case, that of the 
dialecticians, a cobweb of the brain. The Deus sive natura, 
brought forward by Bruno and geometrically described by 
Spinoj&a, is a phantom of the conception, an artifice of 
the schoolmen welded together out of superstition and 
the " logic of pretence/' as Kant calls it. God is not 
to be seen in nature, nor can He be demonstrated from 
her ; only the man who carries Him in his heart will also 
be able to track Him in the outer World, Our deep- 
thinking German mystics knew this and said, ** Whoso 
wishes to perceive God must be blind/ 1106 But in truth 
Bruno's God is seen neither in nature nor in the heart ; 
this monad of monads from which " proceeds that other 
monad which is called Nature/' is a mere abstract 
thought. 106 All attempts to sing his praises as En$> 
Unum, Vtrum, Fatum, Ratio, Ordo, and as the foundation 



BRUNO 413 

of all things which we in the first place hold to be the 
creations of nature, are of little consequence. 107 The 
God of the true mystics, on the other hand, springs out 
of direct experience, and the God of Descartes who Saw 
outwards was just as much a dialectical artifice as 
Bruno's, but obtained by deliberation and with the 
intention to enlist this conception in the service of em- 
pirical investigation, so that here, if ever, we have the 
right to say " the end justifies the means." 108 

Here I must set a limit to these short remarks. I am 
no more able to do justice to Bruno's complex of thoughts 
than I was to develop the philosophy of Descartes ; I 
must be content if you are able to grasp clearly and 
correctly the method and way in which this man looked 
inwards and outwards upon the world and upon himself. 

But our aim for the moment requires that I should 
once more call your attention to the two main pillars of 
Brunonian thought which together with the universal 
unity of the divine nature carry the whole structure : a 
tendency to boundlessness upwards, a tendency to strict 
limitation downwards (pp. 364-378) ; these at last 
complete the picture and bring clearly into view the 
contrasted method of perception in Kant. There is no 
need to repeat what has already been said upon the 
point, I refer you to it and will only ask you to observe 
how here again, as in the representation of God and the 
world, it is scholastic and theological conceptions, not 
perceptions, that are decisive. God must of necessity 
be infinite, because the conception of Him excludes 
every limitation : lo dico Dio tutto infinite perche da $e 
escfade ogni termine. But since God is infinite so too 
must the world be infinite, for it would be unworthy of a 
Divine power to create a finite world : lo stimavo cosa 
indegna della divina bontd e possentia che possendo prodw 
olfra questo mondo un atiri e altri infiniti, producesse un 
mondofinito (Berti, p. 353). These are purely theological 



414 BRUNO 

arguments, which are only forcible when the God whose 
existence they prove has already been assumed. Those 
arguments, on the contrary, by means of which limitation 
downwards, that is to say, the conception of the Atom, 
is irrefutably set forth, are scholastically dialectical. 
Above all it is the Pythagorean symbolism of numbers 
which turns the scale : " Unity is the substance of 
numbers," that is to say, that out of which numbers 
arise and of which they consist, and therefore " unity is 
at the same time the essence of all things " : Unitas est 
substantia numeri et essentia omnis. But unit signifies 
the lowest of all numbers, and what we in calculating 
call unit that, as Bruno argues, we may call in matter 
a least measure or minimum, so that just as we may call 
the arithmetical unit numeri substantia so we may 
regard the material unit, the Atom, as rerum $ub$tantia> 
as the essence of things. 109 In the Spaccio Bruno uses a 
charmingly popular expression : le cose grandi son com- 
poste de le picciole e le picciole de le picciolissime e queste 
de gl' individui e minimi. If divisibility were not to come 
to an end there would be just as much illimitedness 
downwards as upwards : si minimum non subsistit nihil 
subsistat oportet. Without limited, indivisible, minimum- 
unities there could be no world. Here the argument is 
purely dialectical, and therefore it is far more powerful 
than the first, and Bruno himself confesses that it would 
be easier, for him to give up the infiniteness of the world 
than the finiteness of the atoms : potitts ratio et ncUura 
potest absolvere minimum a maximo quam maximum a 
minimo. iw 

So the dogmatic Infinite and the dogmatic Finite join 
hands, and once more it is the Ego, the first great fact of 
all recognition, which comes off second best, or rather 
remains altogether ignored, penned in between animated 
atoms, called monads, and a soul of the world, I'intettetto 
univwsale, Vanima del mondo. And in order to rivet into 



BRUNO 415 

a unit this perception which consists of two antagonistic 
parts, there happens once more what occurred in the case 
of God and nature : Bruno declares right out : the 
maximum and the minimum are identical, il massimo e il 
minima convegnono in uno essere and maximum nihil est 
aliud quam minimum. The following attempt at a 
logical deduction from the proposition that the minimum 
and the unlimited maximum are equal to one another is 
worth bringing forward as a specimen of the method of 
thought of such men, " The power of all bodies is per- 
fected in the sphere, the power of the sphere is rooted in 
the circle, the power of the circle in its centre. It follows 
that the power of all visible things rests in the invisible. 
A minimum in multitude is a maximum in power, just 
as the power of the whole fire springs out of the power 
of the single spark. So it follows that all power rests in 
the minimum even though it should be hidden to the 
eyes of all, even of the sages, perhaps even of the gods : 
thus the minimum itself is the maximum of all things/' 111 
Clearly Kant was right when he said that Logic used 
as an organon, that is as an instrument for acquiring 
new knowledge, has for its object the power of asserting 
anything in the world with a certain amount of plausi- 
bility. But it is equally evident how powerful those 
inborn tendencies of the particular individual, of which 
we treated in the excursus, are in leading it naturally 
and of necessity into fixed grooves. We have no freedom 
in the choice of the myths which appeal to us. Thinking 
inwards leads to Monism, to the Universal Unit, and at 
the same time to the uprooting of all boundaries, that 
is to say, to the Infinite ; Seeing inwards leads, whether 
we will or not, to Atomism, to the acceptation of indi- 
visible minima. The man who, like Bruno, binds the 
two things together by sheer force, and is not frightened 
to say minimum est maximum, the limited is unlimited, 
gives proof there of a great power of inner truthfulness : 



416 BRUNO 

such an intellect was worthy of being brought to the stake. 
At the same time you will, I think, henceforth under- 
stand Kant's saying, " the doctrine of atoms is in itself a 
contradiction/ ' 112 

We have now gathered together all that we need in 
order rapidly, easily, and surely to understand Kant's 
method of perception as compared with that of Bruno. 

That which characterises Kant's manner of looking 

into the inner mysteries of man may be summed up in a 

single word criticism. Still, it is necessary to know 

exactly what is to be understood here by criticism ; for 

the word is used in two different senses : " I do not 

mean by this a criticism of books and systems, but that 

of the power of reason in general/ 1 so writes Kant in 

the beginning of the preface to the first edition of his 

Critique of Pure Rea$on. The difference is the same as 

that between the criticism of a historical work, and the 

so-called " historical criticism " of the matter on which 

the book is founded ; in the one case it is the exposition 

of a given author, his opinions, his conceptions, his 

deductions which are judged and censored, in the other 

it is the proofs themselves upon which all the expositions, 

however they may differ from one another, depend, 

inscriptions, books, letters, state documents, etc., which 

are tested for their origin, their importance, their relia- 

bility, and their value. It is in the latter sense that 

Kant understands the word Criticism, It is a test, not 

of the opinions about reason, or in anyway of the doctrines 

to which reason has given rise, it is not a test of the 

opinions on experience, on the power of judgment, on 

morals, etc., but it is a test of the inmost soul of man 

by direct dissection and observation, exactly as the 

surgeon with scalpel investigates the condition of the 

inner body. In an often-quoted passage, Kant writes, 

fl The first step in matters of pure reason, which shows 

how it is still in its childhood, is dogmatic. The second , . . 



BRUNO 417 

step is sceptical and testifies to the prudence of the power 
of judgment sharpened by experience. But there is yet a 
third step necessary which only occurs in the ripened and 
manly power of judgment, namely the appreciation not 
of thefacta of reason, but of reason itself according to its 
full power, which is not censure but criticism of reason." 

I am very anxious that you should arrive at an abso- 
lutely precise understanding of this critical faculty and 
method, for Kant is besides Plato the only critical philos- 
opher of all times : how then could you do justice to his 
individual personality unless this most special feature 
were clearly before your eyes ? With this intent I must 
now make use of an image which will gradually lead you 
to a systematic recognition. In this connection I am 
haunted by an unforgettable recollection of my youth, 
which dates from the time when I first heard Kant's 
name : it will help us to produce a plastic representation. 

Let us suppose a man born in the deeply cut valleys of 
the Maritime Alps, and that an ordinance of fate should 
have so locked him and his countrymen to the neigh- 
bourhood, that no inhabitant should have succeeded in 
making his way out to the shores of the Mediterranean. 
You must know that the mountains are so extended in 
Echelon that one needs to climb very high up to the 
perpetual snow of the highest peaks, before one can see 
the sea. That man asks himself, as so many before him 
and around him have done, whence comes the water 
which the clouds give off upon the mountains in such 
inexhaustible measure that even during the long, dry, 
hot summer the brook incessantly rushes down to the 
valley bringing coolness from snow and ice ? Among the 
dwellers in the valley all sorts of theories are current. 
The pastor teaches that God in his mercy is for ever 
creating new rain clouds, especially if his flock are 
diligent in their attendance at church. The apothecary 
has made up a highly complicated scientific theory of a 

I. 2 E 



418 BRUNO 

catalytic combination of oxygen and hydrogen in the 
low pressure of the highest regions of the air under the 
influence of the sun's rays. The schoolmaster is busy 
hunting up explanations in the classical authors, but as 
he has never seen the sea, he understands the ocean in 
the old sense of the okeanos potamos, a river with side 
streams, and so gets entangled in a feud about suffixes 
with the pedagogue of the neighbouring village, in which 
feud both lose sight of the original problem. The village 
philosopher's doctrine is that every investigation of the 
question remains barbarously empirical and objectless, 
so long as it is not determined whether water is to be 
regarded as substance, hypokcimenon or as attribute 
symbebekos, which, however, assumes the solution of 
the first question whether substance is really an ens per 
$e subsistens, or a mere f&tu$ imaginationis. Meanwhile 
our friend actively climbs uphill, is undaunted by failures 
and fatigue, and at last, thanks to his practice in moun- 
taineering, reaches close to the highest peak. Not more 
than two or three had got so far before him ; but these 
few, keenly absorbed in their search after causes which 
seemed plausible to them, had clung to the rocks and 
tried to shovel away the snow in order to see what lay 
underneath. They thought that if they found a spring 
breaking out of the rocks everything would be explained. 
They were mere empirics. But he thinks otherwise, and 
when he has climbed as high as his strength will carry him 
he turns round. He turns his back to the brook and the 
glacier and looks over the successions of (Jcheloned 
mountains, and there, further than he had ever allowed 
his thoughts to range, there in all its glory, there in the 
golden reflection of the midday sun, lies the immeasurable 
sea. He sees the rivers hurrying to it from all sides, and he 
sees the mist rising from its waves, consolidated into clouds, 
and flying with the evening breeze to the mountains. 
That is something like the position of Kant amongst us 



BRUNO 419 

thinking men. And even if every one of my images 
should be failures, this one is quite in tune, and I should 
like to impress it permanently upon you in this way : 
in Kant the one essential point is a turning round as it 
were on the pivot of the intellect, so that the mind looks 
in a new and opposite direction, and so obtains a sight 
of that which was up to that time unsuspected. The 
mam who climbs just as high and does not turn round 
will never have a share in the revelation of a fully new 
fact : but the man who turns round before he has reached 
a certain height which will make him competent to enter 
upon intellectual deliberation, will find himself dis- 
appointed: for he will see no more on the height than he 
did in the valley. Mark this too I no dialectical art, were it 
never so subtle, and no power of phantasy, could have 
discovered the sea, whereas without logic and without 
phantasy it is seen at once if the man only understands 
the right standpoint from which it of itself strikes the 
eye. Kant is a discoverer, just as Columbus was, or like 
his own favourite Captain Cook. And it is absurd to 
believe that what this unheard-of and unique critical 
power of perception discovered and revealed, could be 
discredited by any given man, simply because he is not 
competent, and has not made himself competent, to see 
it. Our friend who saw the sea with his eyes will hardly 
be convinced by the professor in the valley that it does 
not exist ; it is in this sense that you must understand 
Kant when he says of his critical results, " In this case 
there is no danger of being refuted, the danger is of not 
being understood " (R.V. xliii). 

The picture which I have set before you not only gives 
an expression easily understood to the fact itself, but 
also to the result of the Kantian method of Criticism. 
For there is no more important result of these discoveries 
than that of the strict and relatively narrow -limitation 
of the competency of our reason, that limitation which 



420 BRUNO 

was cursorily indicated in a former lecture as a double 
wall. Once our mountaineer sees the ocean, he has 
before him the whole circulation of the water, and 
the whole horizon of his knowledge of this subject is 
effectively widened and yet once for all ideally 
confined within limits. So long as he was unaware of 
this circulation, this giving and taking, this motion 
hither and thither between close boundaries, there were 
no limits set to his philosophical and mythological 
phantasy, the tendency of which was necessarily to lose 
itself backwards as well as forwards in the infinite ; 
whence should that inexhaustible supply of water come ? 
whither should it go? Now at one stroke the whole 
problem is solved, or rather shown to be non-existent. 
The water was returning whence it came, and came from 
whither it went ; it did not spring from the hidden 
bowels of the earth, nor did it flow into boundless space. 
At the same time, however, there was an end of all hope 
of an absolute " explanation " such as had flitted before 
the minds of the simple folk. Of course it was always 
possible to ask with the old philosophers, whether water 
was attribute or substance, and whether the substance 
was an ens per $e subsistens, or a foetus imaginationis ; 
but this dialectical consideration had ceased to bear any 
relation to the water problem, and was unmasked as a 
matter of pure metaphysical speculation* It was now 
possible to be concerned with the investigation of the 
details and the utilisation of the circulation which had 
been discovered : the ideas of the pastor and the apothe- 
cary and the schoolmaster and the others, whoever they 
might be, were all swept away : they were henceforth 
not only idle but demonstrably false. 
One more picture by way of amplification. 
Four centuries ago there were no boundaries to our 
planet earth. Each man was free to imagine it according 
to his own pleasure. Above it in Heaven was the place 



BRUNO 421 

of the blest, below it in Hell was the place for the damned, 
room for all. Then came Columbus and his followers, 
and it turned out that the earth was a sphere measured 
through in all directions, upon which if a man sailed on 
westward he came back to his starting-point from the 
east, a prison from which there was no escape. Magellan's 
men had even feared that they were reaching the rim of 
the world and would topple over ; now every one knew 
that we, at any rate so long as this life lasts, are chained 
to our dust-speck of a planet, and that every fall means 
falling back upon the earth. And then came Copernicus, 
and robbed us of all space for our dreams ; for God who 
is in Heaven there was no place left, no place for the 
eternal fires of Hell indeed, as soon as space became 
recognised as boundless there was no Above and no Below, 
no Here and no There. The service rendered to human 
thought by Kant's Critique of Pure Reason is throughout 
analogous. It sets free and at the same time imposes 
limits. " The age is no longer to be held back by sham 
knowledge/ 1 So Kant sets out upon his voyage of 
discovery ; his aim is to achieve true knowledge instead 
of sham : the result is, however, that our reason, like our 
earth, is represented as a sphere moving freely, limited 
all round, and by itself. Here too there is no " rim " 
from which a man can reach a space beyond, either 
upwards or downwards ; rather does every road over 
which our thoughts travel only lead in a circle on this 
small Sphere of Reason : it is only upon the ocean of 
experience that we can circumnavigate it, and if we 
boldly press further and further ahead, we once more 
come back to the place whence we started. Earth-born 
we are, and to earth confined. That is why our reason as 
Kant says, " can never go beyond the field of possible 
experience," and can never undertake to escape from 
this domain which has been assigned to it, because beyond 
it there is " nothing for us but empty space." 11 * 



422 BRUNO 

Thus hand in hand with the Copernican expansion goes 
the Copernican limitation. Since we are confined to 
experience, all those doctrines which attempt to fly over 
it fall at once and for all time. So, for instance, Kant 
annihilates all so-called " proofs " of the existence of 
God down to their deepest roots ; God is a practical 
postulate, something which we believe, not something 
which we can know or in any way imagine. And on the 
other hand, in opposition to the many dogmas of natural 
science, which, as I showed in my first and second lectures, 
outstep experience in every end and corner, Kant shows 
that every doctrine of bodies ends with emptiness, and 
therefore with that which is unintelligible, and that there 
is therefore nothing left for reason in this domain, ** but 
instead of investigating the utmost bounds of things, to 
investigate and fix the utmost bounds of its own unaided 
power, left to itself with no help from outside." As for 
what concerns the sophists after the manner of Bruno, 
and to be just, of all the school-philosophers from 
Aristotle to Hegel, how they take the field against one 
another with their armies of definitions and syllogisms, 
and prove with keenest precision either that God is 
identical with nature or else is essentially different from 
nature, that there are atoms or that there are no atoms, 
that the world must be infinite or of necessity finite, and 
so forth, Kant pronounces judgment from the stand- 
point of criticism ; " There is thus in reality no room for 
polemics in the field of pure reason. Both sides are 
flogging the air, puffing themselves out with their own 
shadows : for they go beyond nature, in which there is 
nothing for them to lay hold of : they may fight as they 
will : the shadows which they cut down grow together 
again in a moment like the heroes in Valhalla, in order to 
be able to make merry again in bloodless contests/'* 14 

I think you must see clearly what it is that differentiates 
the view which Kant's eye takes of the world from the 



BRUNO 423 

view of the typical schoolman and fanatic of reason, 
Bruno. The one fathers criticism, the other dogmatism. 
The fact that Kant soared higher with his thoughts than 
Bruno, would only constitute a relative difference ; but 
the fact that he possessed that higher discretion of which 
I spoke at the beginning of this section, and which I 
tried in our parallel to illustrate as a turning round of a 
man's self, forms a fundamental difference. Here he 
becomes something more than a philosopher, he becomes 
a scientific discoverer ; his view has brought to all the 
more gifted of mankind a revelation the result of which 
is a totally new comprehension of human life and of 
human ideals. 

But we must take a further step before we make an 
end of this lecture. What I said a while ago about Bruno's 
conception of the Ego, Nature and God, together with 
the previous reflections upon mythology and Hellenic 
philosophy, and all this in relation to our former lectures, 
allows us now to obtain a deeper and more exact insight 
into the personality of Kant. You know how I am tied 
down : I cannot take Kant's philosophy as known, nor 
can I work with scholastic conceptions. That is why 
my characterisation of Kant's critical method has pene- 
trated so little into detail, remaining little more than 
an illustration of an intellectual attitude; a closer 
inspection of Kant's method must be reserved for the 
last lecture. Still, I think that we have now sufficient 
material to take a bold plunge into the deepest water 
without any fear of being drowned in pure abstractions 
we shall be buoyed up by many concrete notions. 

Kant attaches great weight to the fact that he '* not 
only suspects, but has proved" the impossibility of 
knowing anything outside of experience. Do you know 
how it became possible to add cogency to this proof ? 
Through the criticism of experience itself, through the 
proof that our experience is composed of various recipro- 



424 BRUNO 

cally conditioning parts, so that neither that which we 
perceive as the " World " nor that which we think of as 
" Ego " is of itself simple, and thus perception blocks up 
thought, and thought blocks up perception, each pre- 
venting the other from seeing out into that which lies 
beyond our limited human experience. The dogmatist 
has no suspicion of this. If I leave the contemplation of 
the starry heavens with Anaxagoras in order to deduce 
that it is God who sets them in motion, then, through the 
intermediary of a mere inference of thought, I leave 
something perceived in nature to arrive at something 
which is impossible of perception. Precisely the same is 
the case with the God of Aristotle and his fifty-five 
heavenly spirits or aims : the painfully exact observation 
,of empirical facts is fundamental, but the thinker strides 
out over these facts from one logical inference to another 
until its want of consistency and conclusion is satisfied. 
A Bruno, who must serve us as the type of the whole 
second army of thinkers from Y&djnavalkya to Schopen- 
hauer, sets to work in a different way, for whilst Anaxa- 
goras and Aristotle stride outwards on the path of 
perception, and take God as at most the mechanical 
author of all motion, Bruno, on the contrary, at once 
works inwards on the path of thought, and finds God as 
the very inmost conception in all things, setting them in 
motion from this *' inmost " and not from outside. Da 
noi si chiama artefice interne perctie forma la materia e la 
figwra da dentro, " we call him the builder from inside 
because he forms matter and form from within outwards/' 
Motor ab iwternis is God, 115 In the -same way the Indians 
called God the inner director. Here the world does not 
become intelligible until we see God at work ; in the 
other case God was deduced from the conception of the 
world. You no doubt observe that in these two opposite 
methods of thought, with the direction outwards and the 
direction inwaxds4'k&d ^ e two divine myths which 



BRUNO 425 

result from them, God in the outermost, God in the in- 
most, there is one fundamental acceptation common to 
both. Both put in the foremost place that identity of 
thinking and being, or thinking and seeing, of which I 
spoke at the beginning of my lecture, and which I recog- 
nised as the fundamental myth of all philosophising : for 
if this identity did not exist these thinkers would have 
had no right upon the path of mere logical consideration 
to arrive at the conclusion of the invisible from the 
visible, from the perception of motions to the necessity 
of a moving power. And it is this common foundation 
of all different doctrines which Kant lays in ruins by bis 
criticism of experience, and of which Plato, full of pre- 
science, two thousand years earlier, but without being 
understood, had exposed the untenability. Kant's 
criticism proves that our Thinking and our Seeing are so 
interdependent and interwoven that neither dare take 
a single step without the other. " Understanding and 
sensibility can only determine subjects in us (mankind) 
when they are in combination.' 1 If we separate them, 
we have perceptions without conceptions, or conceptions 
without perceptions ; but in either case notions that we 
can refer to no fixed subject. Between the canopy of 
heaven and the invisible God whom we believe to have 
created it and to cause it to move in circles, there lies 
only a chain of thoughts without any perceptible foun- 
dation ; between the Atman-Pneuma-Soul in my living 
consciousness and God, both living in all things and 
inspiring them with souls, there lies a mere analogy of 
the material of perception, an aerial rainbow-bridge, 
leading from the known across to the unknown : both are 
equally inadmissible, reason dupes itself. For thinking 
outside the domain of experience marked out by perception 
(like God " over the canopy of heaven") is mere "toying 
with notions" (R.V. 195), and the pretended perception 
of something which cannot be perceived (as for instance of 
E 2 



426 BRUNO 

the inner Deity) is a fiction surpassing all imagination, 
a " mere freak." The critic will not allow what both the 
monist and the dualist have the impertinence to do, 
the splitting up of that complex whole upon which our 
experience depends, the Ego-Nature or the Nature-Ego, 
call it what you will, and so where the one part cannot 
co-operate permit the other to be pressed forward alone. 
Thoughts, even when they are born of the Ego, only 
depend upon perceptions in nature, perceptions which 
even when they are borrowed from nature have no 
existence unless they are intelligibly accessible to the 
Ego. In contradistinction therefore to the assumption 
of two absolutely separate, but therefore absolutely 
equally valuable component parts, Thinking and Seeing, 
the Ego and the World, the critic points out that both 
parts are organically interdependent, something in the 
same way as the nervous system, and the heart : without 
the functions of the nerves th^re can be no action of the 
heart, without heart-action no\f unction of the nerves-r- 
so that it is impossible to advance a single step with the 
one without the other- It is thus that the primeval 
myth of all mythology and of all pre-critical philosophy 
falls to the ground. 

Do you observe how there lies before us here a second 
relation of reciprocal conditioning and being conditioned, 
directed more inwards? Without given, immutable, 
forms of Thinking and Seeing from which there is no 
escape, there can be no possible experience of empirical 
things ; on the other side, however, without empirical 
experience, and that means without any " matter 
for recognition by the senses," without something 
given outside of the perceiving Ego, no Seeing* and 
without empirical perception no Thinking and therefore 
again no experience. Each of the two parts is at the same 
time conditioned and conditioning ; and since that is so 
I as man can never attain to anything which is indepen- 



BRUNO 427 

dent or free from condition or absolute: there is no 
possibility of reaching a place of vantage in that direction. 
It is impossible for me ever to comprehend the Thing, 
purely as such, and stripped of all forms of human per- 
ception and thought ; for that which I conceive as Thing 
is through and through amalgamated with an inseparable 
alloy out of my own inner self ; so much so that if I try 
to brush away all that is subjective (the impressions of the 
senses and the categories of thoughts), I end by reaching 
not the notion of a Thing, but a mere abstract conception, 
the conception of substance, the shadow of a shadow 
thought, and even that I must abandon because it is after 
all only an indispensable formal conception, not a true 
perception. I fare no better when I try to grasp the Ego 
purely as such with its inborn laws of Seeing and Thinking ; 
for it is so thoroughly real the form of sensibility, all 
the possible series of thoughts, time as the intermediary 
between both, this whole complicated intellectual 
organisation is so exclusively coined upon objects of 
concrete experience, that when I try to remove all that 
is corporeal, and to reflect upon my mere Ego-conscious- 
ness, I at last reach not a thought, but a bare, poverty- 
stricken because entirely empty, perception, without 
comprehension and without ideas. 116 Here the result 
is a double insight. First, " if I remove the thinking 
subject, the whole corporeal world must collapse " ; 
secondly, " if I remove the corporeal world perceived by 
the senses, the thinking Ego fades away/' Nothing can 
prevent me from distinguishing analytically my own 
Thinking and my own Seeing as two different functions of 
my power of recognition, just as I distinguish between 
heart and brain ; but I am not in a position even in 
thought to isolate a pure Ego, freed from all empiricism, 
from a pure, entirely objective, corporeal world, for in 
that case there would remain mere phantom?, empty 
words without sense. And of course you already under- 



428 BRUNO 

stand that this single examination suffices to expose as 
" freaks," as Kant says, all the philosophies which 
nevertheless found their structures upon this separation, 
or, as we would rather say, as interesting but violent 
mythologies. For whether I try in common with the 
thinkers of the Bruno group to consume the corporeal 
world by the Ego-world, giving a soul to everything, 
denying all individuality, annihilating all form, till I 
can say with Plotinus, " Nature is Soul," and with Bruno, 
" it is a single divine Monad " ; or whether like Democritus 
I win over the Ego-world to the corporeal world, and 
declare with Kapila " I am not " ; or whether with 
Aristotle I undertake to separate the two entirely from 
one another on the one side, the Nous-creator related 
to the Ego, on the other, the corporeal world related to 
my body, 117 I know all the same that in every one of these 
attempts I am undertaking an impossibility, for every one 
of tfcern. presumes an archimedean point which in reality 
does not exist. It is with Kant that at last man becomes 
conscious that he has all along been a mere creator of 
myths. Kant's critical work is the Copcrnican turning- 
point in the history of our intellectual life. 

But with this not only does the more or less consciously 
dreamed philosophic myth collapse, but also the entirely 
unconscious presumption of our daily life, the un- 
sophisticated prime dogma of all dogmas, that our 
perceptions correspond to things. According to Kant's 
view, which I have just set forth, Thinking and Perception 
behave far more like two mirrors sot the one over against 
the other, from which each throws back the pic t tires to 
the other from which it has received them and neither 
can see whether the picture which is formed in itjwhich 
it can only see in the other mirror, exactly corrlfepowte 
to an externally present concrete object This recognition, 
which we are able to maintain proceeds from Kant's 
method of viewing the world, has been summed up by 



BRUNO 429 

the Sage into one word, the meaning of which must be 
clear and familiar to you, the word Erscheimmg, phe- 
nomenon. It is only when this word has acquired a living 
meaning for you that you can know exactly how Kant's 
eye viewed the world, I should like to sum up in a formula 
what is to be said about this. 

What in our everyday life we call Things are phe- 
nomena. What we suspect behind the phenomena are, 
Things of thought, that is to say, empty conceptions in 
which it is impossible to think anything because we 
cannot conceive in them anything perceptible, therefore 
a nonentity. It is impossible to separate the Ego from 
the Things; The Ego also is a phenomenon, and 
what we seek for behind it is a Thing of thought, or to 
speak more accurately, a blind notion, a nonentity. 

I should wish these words to be considered until they 
have perceptibly laid hold of your mind, so that you may 
understand that all that surrounds us and all that we 
ourselves arc and in which we live and work are literally 
similitudes, as the poet says, and phenomena (not Things 
in themselves)! as the* philosopher is compelled to express 
himself* 

So of the Thing we know nothing, we only know phe* 
nomena. And of the contrast between the universal body 
and the Ego-body , so often touched upon, you know 
that they both correspond, and that therefore what holds 
good of the one is equally applicable to the other : I am 
only conscious of myself when I am conscious of other 
Things, I am therefore just an much a phenomenon as 
they are* But that this whole appreciation is not a 
"mere jduun" you can perceive from the following 
explanation of Kant'*, ** thtf doctrine of all true idealists 
frofn the eleatic school to Bishop Berkeley Is contained 
in this formula ; all recognition by the sense* and by 
experience is nothing but mere sham, and it is only in 
the idea* of pure understanding and (pure) reason that 



430 BRUNO 

truth exists. The principle which entirely rules and 
pervades my idealism is, on the contrary, all recognition 
of Things out of mere pure understanding, or pure reason 
is nothing but utter sham, and truth exists in experience 
alone/' 118 

I have been at some pains to look out this last quotation, 
for I foresaw full well that you would cast it in my teeth 
that all this might well be an incontestable, but at the 
same time perfectly superfluous, subtlety ; for if all 
which we call Things, ourselves included, arc in reality 
phenomena, not shams, but realities as firm as rocks, 
now everything would end by remaining in the old, most 
wholesome and most popular realism. With reference 
to that Kant himself will not find fault with you : he 
says, "what Things may be in themselves I neither 
know nor need to know, because a Thing can never 
appear to me otherwise than as a phenomenon/' (R,V. 
332 $eq.). He, moreover, teaches expressly the " reality, 
i.e. the objective value of space in view of all that which 
can appear to us outwardly as object/' (K.V, 44,) 
But this very thing, the henceforth irrefutable objective 
value of space, is an important result of criticism ; for it is 
precisely this objective value of space and of things in it 
that has been often enough threatened by the philosophers; 
Kant fights here for the unconditioned, unbounded, law- 
abiding value of all science of nature, and in general for 
that which we may in its noblest moaning call " common 
sense." But the point of this critical analysis of the 
human intellect is, as you sec, turned in another direction. 
In order to assure the permanent authority of objective 
experience, of science, of common sense, they must not 
only be raised to the throne, but their enemies, continually 
springing up anew, must be destroyed, and here we arc 
served by the recognition that we only have to deal with 
phenomena* For out of mere phenomena we cannot 
arrive at absolute recognition. That is the great result 



BRUNO 431 

of criticism, a result which was bound to transform our 
whole conception of the being of man from the very 
foundations, if it should ever be possible to preach it 
among all cultured people. Kant shows, with an over- 
whelming mass of proofs, that us soon as our Thinking 
flics or tries to fly or professes to fly (it is all the same) 
above the domain of experience to which our Thinking 
as well as our Seeing is alone directed, it gets into a 
tangle of nonsense and contradictions, and that only the 
might of dogmas incapable of proof and in reality sense- 
less can apparently saw it from unavoidable bankruptcy. 
And Kant shows, what no man had suspected before him, 
why that occurs and how it happens and wo always hear 
the tag, the mistake is that we take mere phenomena for 
Things, and that we hold mere conceptions coined upon 
phenomena alone, as the appreciations of reason, and so 
apply them as if their vuhu* reached beyond all experience. 
The greatest philosophers contradict each other, and 
with their contradictory assertions one set of them is 
just as right and just as wrong as the others. If you 
carry our historical excursus of to~day in your mind, you 
know exactly how this hangs together, The different 
possible fundamental conceptions of mankind are ever 
legitimised : but the dehisbn of a fight for the mastery 
has vanished, vanished also in the fallacy of a so-called 
development through error to truth. Kant has mown 
down the Dogmas for all time. IdeaHnm, Realism, 
Materialism* Scepticism, Monism, Dualism, Pantheism. 
Snlipgfain, Thcfem, Athdfm,-~al} the " tanut " that ever 
were or ewr will be ! Thft chatter q| decades* ol centuries 
in swept away ! For we are encircled all round by mere 
phenomena ; Goethe's " all that b transitory is but a 
similitude,'* is tho quintessence of what the pout had 
learnt in Kant. We are not competent to attain to Things, 
we cm do nothing with them : we do not know whether 
the corporeal world is a unity or a plurality, whether it & 



432 BRUNO 

mutable or immutable, transient or permanent, finite or 
infinite ; we do not know whether the Ego of the soul and 
material nature belong to a common substratum or are 
twofold ; we cannot therefore decide anything as to 
whether Thinking and Expansion belong to different 
essences, or are only different conditions of one identical 
essence ; we possess no organ, no capacity ever even to 
arrive at the consideration of such questionsexcept in 
the blindness of uncritical ignorance. 110 We may main- 
tain that our power of judgment enjoins on us always to 
proceed on the assumption that there exists a certain 
fitness between nature and our human reason* But we 
can never discover how fax this fitness in reality reaches* 
And so Kant is able at the end of Hs critical masterpiece 
to utter the proud, artless words, " the greatest and 
maybe only use of all philosophy of pure reason is 
therefore perhaps only negative, inasmuch as it does not 
serve as an organon for expansion, but as a discipline 
for fixing boundaries, and instead of discovering truth 
has only the silent merit of warding off errors/' Kant's 
achievement is the final annihilation for all time of those 
dogmas which fly above the bounds of experience, as 
well of all religious dogmas as of all those of philosophy 
and natural science. 

It is when you penetrate deeply into Kant's works 
that you will acquire a detailed and convincing know* 
ledge upon these points. I must be content if I have 
shown you distinctly how sharply and in what a purely 
scientific way this eye of Kant's, in contradistinction to 
all philosophical subtilisations, penetrated and illuminated 
the inmost network of the mind. That is the individual 
momentum which we must strive to realise, Kant bases 
himself upon facts, upon facts which wo must see with 
our eyes, not upon definitions and terminological hair- 
splittings and syllogistic demonstrations* KaiU speaks 
out bluntly : " as a matter of doctrine, phUosop&y seems 



BRUNO 433 

to be quite unnecessary, or rather out of place, because 
after all the attempts that have been made with it up to 
the present time little or no ground has been gained " ; 
and I think that you will be amazed at the precipice, the 
all-devouring abyss of misunderstanding, to use no 
harder word, when you see Kant's most famous pupil, 
Fichte, draw his well-known Eniwcdcr-Qdcr (one thing 
or the other) as a result from the teaching of the master, 
and so in Kant's lifetime pave the way for the reaction 
of the dogmatists and philosophical professors against 
the work of critical liberation. For Fichtc wrote to Kant 
himself, *' we have no right to banish scholasticism " ; 
he reintroduces the *' absolute M into philosophy, and 
deduces from Kant's critique, that either the Ego must 
be explained out of the world, or as he expresses it the 
Non-ego, or conversely the world, out of the Ego ; and 
so he chooses the latter, and builds up the monstrous 
system from which Kant solemnly and publicly dissociated 
himself, and which ho with his usual felicity describes as 
" a sort of spectre, which, when one thinks that one has 
grasped it, vanishes, so that one finds before one no abject 
but only oneself, and even of oneself only the hand which 
clutched at it.*' 190 That wast the road over which Gorman 
academical philosophy was to travel to the present day, 
as if Kant had never lived. And in order that Kant should 
fade out of the living consciousness of student youth, and 
of the working and enquiring and practically active men 
apart from the professorial chain*, there was drawn up 
that scries of classical heroes that you find in every 
German book : Kant, Fichtc, Schclling, Hegel, Schlcler- 
macher, Herbart, as if there were any single tie of inner 
relationship binding Kant to any one of those men, and 
as if his anti-dogmatic life-work, aimed at the eternal 
annihilation of all scholastic wisdom, had anything in 
common with the achievements of these doughty men,* 
in some sense also men of genius, but who might as well 



434 BRUNO 

have lived a thousand years before Kant, for any trace 
that his work left upon them. 

There will be many who will wish to add a name here ; 
they will say that Schopenhauer was the complement of 
Kant. And yet it was precisely Schopenhauer who 
attempted more than the others, and by virttie of his 
brilliant gifts effected more, towards demolishing the 
peculiar critical and methodically scientific thoughts of 
Kant. Between Kant's critique and Schopenhauer's 
dogmatics there is no bridge. 

You, on the other hand, gentlemen, have, unless I am 
mistaken, now fully realised that since Kant's critique 
has enlightened us as to the metaphysics of our inner 
man, it is unpermissible to speak of the World and of the 
Ego as if they were two different and dillBguishable 
" Things " which it would be possible to coiftsa&t with 
Fichte's " one or the other " of Ego and World, pr as 
Schopenhauer expresses it of Will and Conception 
(Witte und Vorstellung). The distinction between World 
and Ego is a necessary method, but not the establishment 
of a fact, 121 But you would only have half understood if 
you did not grasp that it is at the same time impossible 
dogmatically to come to a conclusion as to the unity of 
the two, as do Fichte as well as Schopenhauer. The 
fundamental point here lies on the hither side of unity 
and plurality, for what we conceive as World sind as Ego 
are simply two ideas, and indeed the two primary ideas 
which embrace all others. 122 And since, as we have scon, 
it is not possible to make a clean separation between the 
corporeal world and the Ego world, all the elements 
of both being intertwined round one another, we may 
maintain that these two ideas issue from one point, one 
single focus imaginarius indicated in the first lecture. 
And so a more exact analysis joins together again what 
analysis had severed. Still, this unity of Kant's has 
nothing in common with the deduction accepted out of a 



BRUNO 435 

common unified principle, and it is the opposite contra- 
diction of the universal unity preached by Bruno. For 
in the latter, in spite, of all its trickecl-out finery of logically 
dialectical arguments, we saw nothing less, but also 
nothing more, than a grand and yet arbitrary repre- 
sentation of myths, as one of the various dreams by 
which \w men are haunted when we give the reins to our 
reason and to our phantasy. The unity revealed by 
Kant, cm the contrary, is a result of the critically de- 
liberated analysis of experience, 

1 believe that we have reached the goal which I had 
proposed to myself in this lecture : 1 have ferried you 
across from out". World into the other, out of the world 
of dogmas into the world of tho critical analysis of experi- 
ence and of scientifically methodical thought. And if 
you cast ytfur thoughts hack upon our schematic, survey, 
yoti will surely agree with me if I repeat my contention 
that Kant Ix'Iongs to the (loet he-Schopenhauer group 
with its Thinking inwards and Seeing outwards. Yet while 
all the others, with the exception of Pluto, remain fixed 
in their inlxtrn method of tendency and owvsidednt*ss,~ 
Kant* as you have? now seen, by his scientific, and in a 
certain sense anti-phihwuphiral, critique of the human 
inteH*ct, overpowers this individual dogmatidsm which 
is, HO to say, the birthright of us all. Hi* utterly shakes 
oil the fetters in which hte predecessors and followers* arc 
enchained. But thin highest wisdom demands at the 
name time a high moral courage, for, as you will sec in 
our last two fort me*, every step means renunciation: 
renunciation of so-railed knowledge* rtwtmeiation of the 
dt'hiKitms of decade* of centuries, renunciation of any 
help that might be hoped fur from without* It require*, 
moreover, great qualities of character* an incorruptible 
love of truth, a mwt intimate puwer of belief, a fulfilment 
of duty apart from all otfagr considerations ; without these 
it would he hardly jx>ssiblc even transiently to under** 



436 BRUNO 

stand Kant's standpoint and to view the world as he saw 
it ; for we are dealing here more with a question of fact 
than of thought. Yet the reward is not wanting. Between 
nature and personality, between the recognised necessity 
and the experience of freedom, between must and should, 
between world and God as the unknown uniting power, as 
nodus et wncukm mundi, standing as the point where the 
Universal crosses and meets, so, set up between horizons 
ever flying apart, stands the power of reason as Kant's 
critical eye sees it. Man can never lack matter for investi- 
gation, for poetry and for dreaming, above all for dealing 
with, and conscious equipment of, himself. Kant's whole 
Thinking is rooted in the practical : that we shall see 
more and more in the two last lectures. It was necessary 
in the interests of the practical aims of the free man that 
dogmatics should be annihilated. Ripe for high destinies. 
That is man as Kant saw him. 

In the two final lectures we shall be moving in this new 
philosophy of Kant's, only here once more for the study 
of the personality and its peculiar character, not of 
systematic details, still moving essentially with greater 
freedom owing to the higher level which we have attained. 
Plato will render us good service in the endeavour to 
contemplate nature through the eye of Kant : those two 
men stand very near to one another, and the unschooled, 
childlike loftiness of the one will make it easier to under- 
stand the method of perception of the other, scholastically 
dressed up as it is, and disentangling itself out of thou- 
sands of years of ratiocination. This survey of nature 
will lead us to the final survey of the inner man : there 
Kant alone can give us the lead. 



END OF VOL* I